VIDEO: OPENING TALK (Part 1)
Video entitled Opening Talk is little over 30 minutes.
First 6 minutes or so, I started the session by welcoming participants, in particular, the majority of whom first timers at the Davos in Experience Session. I then explained the thinking behind selecting this session’s topic of agriculture. Foodstuff is critical for all of us and the trade related to food and agriculture has been the issue from national security point of view as well as safety. In addition, TPP has been recently debated.
I then introduced the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Jakarta, I was scheduled to attend from April 19-21. I explained briefly the past East Asia Forums- in Manila in 2014, Myanmar in 2013 and Bangkok in 2012 and Jakarta in 2011. I mentioned this year’s East Asia Forum’s theme “New Regional Context”, focusing on ASEAN region/ASEAN Economic Community. I introduced the CONNECT format, new at the Forum, and explained the session entitled “Financial inclusion and protection in East Asia” I was scheduled to facilitate..
At about 6:30 minutes into the video, I introduced our special guest, Yuriko Katoh, founder of M2lab, and winner of the grand prize of the women entrepreneurs’ business plan competition by Development Bank of Japan.
She explained her background of studying in the UK and worked as engineer for NASA project and industrial machinery company. She then introduced the status quo of agriculture and food supply in Japan. Specifically, she discussed international comparison of self-sufficiency rate of foodstuff, status of farmland in Japan (many abandoned), age of farmers and application of technology such as robots to farming.
She introduced her two lines of business-Vege provider which connects farmers and consumers to fill the gap between demand and supply and Agri-innovator which combines the concept of agriculture with some other agenda to bring happiness and better society.
There were several questions raised by the participants.
At about 27 minutes into the video archive, I asked participants whether anybody tried to grow vegetables on their own and asked to share their experiences. Then I asked the question whether they would try start-up in agriculture with some knowledge and information from Ms. Kato’s presentation and shared their view with neighbors.
Then I asked for the topics/agenda to combine with agriculture for the breakout sessions. Altogether, 8 topics were selected by the votes of the participants. The breakout session began, each with the topic.
VIDEO: PRESENTATIONS (Part 2)
Presentation video is about 30 minutes. Each breakout group reported back what ideas they developed.
The first group was Agriculture x Entertainment and explained game (virtual farm with virtual coins, points, competitive farming games) and anime on agriculture, even suggesting costume play, theme park, and use of social network.
The second group was on architecture/urban planning. They recommend the use of high rises for farming and give special membership to farmers, agriculture trips, use of structures of buildings for growing vegetables. They also recommended the supermarket/where vegetables are grown, managed by the community. Their favorite was the floating farm on Blimp where clouds can provide water.
The third group was on Tourism. Repeated visits to farms for growing and harvesting in the form of membership and owning of trees for the public. Short-term stay/trip for non-Japanese were suggested. They also recommended tour featuring organic vegetables with stay at farmers’ homes, offered at premium price and setting up special agency/association specifically for the agricultural farm.
The fourth group on Education recommended to develop a story with special key icon person such as Steve Jobs (Farm Jobs?) in the area of agriculture to appeal the young people, with extensive use of media. Incorporating philosophy into farming will be good for educational purposes.
The fifth group combining agriculture with urban life suggested rooftop garden, based upon the Japanese people’s interest in sustainability (recycling pet bottles etc.) The region they suggested was suburban where community spirit could be developed.
The sixth group wanted to change the image of agriculture from hard work, low tech, dirty etc. to more sophisticated and positive image by using Art.
The seventh group combining beauty and agriculture identified barriers to make agriculture (dirty, cheap, etc) into something sexy. Target consumers are ladies and stories by associating vegetables with beauty, (eating more pumpkin makes skin softer etc.). are recommended. They also tried to develop trust of consumers by direct interaction with farmers in a variety of forms—interaction with chefs in suggesting good recipes for beauty.
The eighth group thought about how to use Remote control to appeal to the young people.
The weather and hard environment issue can be eliminated by Rumba, sensor, etc. To make farming more fun by develop farming competition game using remote control to produce best produce is one of their ideas.
Overall, the groups developed many interesting ideas to turn the dirty, hard, low income image of agriculture into something fun and exciting. The attempt to combine something else with agriculture, which Ms. Katoh advocates, is a great way.
At the end Yuriko Katoh made some comments. In particular, she made remarks about the traditionally closed nature of agriculture and the need to open up the agriculture so that new people and ideas can come in to make it more fun.
VIDEO: BEFORE SESSION (Part 3)
I interviewed our guest, Yuriko Katoh, for Session#25 of Davos Experience in Tokyo both in Japanese and English before the session. Ms. Katoh shared issues such as closed-ness of agriculture in Japan and her expectation from the session-namely new ideas to combine other items with agriculture and potential of technological application. She also mentioned the need to develop more entrepreneurs and to encourage star-ups for agriculture.
VIDEO: AFTER SESSION (Part 4)
I interviewed two people after the session in Japanese and in English. First person was Japanese who came for the first time and who appreciated the diversity of views and opinions of participants with a variety of background during the session. He shared what he liked as well as some difficulty of focusing on the aspect of their group’s topic (Remote control)
The second person was a international student who came for the first time. She liked the interactive workshop style of the session and had good and exciting ideas in breakout session. (She was in Entertainment group.)
#Session 25 “Davos experience in Tokyo” Series
April 17, 2015
“Innovate Agriculture & Food Supply Chain by using technology and creativity”
At session #25 of Davos Experience in Tokyo Series on April 17, we will invite Ms. Yuriko Kato, founder of m2-Labo. Ms. Kato has been involved in a variety of initiatives to innovate agriculture and bring new ideas into “food.” Foodstuff is a critical issue requiring the multi-stakeholder collaboration on the global scale, as it is closely related to water resources, poverty, malnutrition and global health. Agriculture has been an important issue for us, as Japan does not have adequate self-sufficiency of domestic food supply and the farmers are aging without younger generation taking over. Agriculture has been a thorny issue of trade policies including TPP. Agricultural reform advocated by the Abe Administration may have some political implications. There is no question that every one of us wants fresh, safe and good food ourselves.
When it comes to technological innovation and breakthrough ideas, however, we have not had many good examples for agriculture and/or foodstuffs. We do not believe, however, agriculture can remain “sacred” (i.e. not affected by) in the face of accelerating technological advancement which has transformed many other industries.
Ms. Kato founded mw-lab in 2009 with the goal of bringing technology and innovation into the field of agriculture. Based upon her expertise as engineer and her extensive experience of working for NASA and development of industrial machineries, she has started a variety of business initiatives and operations. They include consulting service of “vegetable provider” connecting farmers and buyers, and “field server” operation, an application of sensors and robotics to improve productivity of farming. She has plans to introduce uniquely diverse Japanese approach to farming throughout the world, as Japan spans far along north and south and offers many rich and different ways to accommodate different weather and soil.
We want to think of many creative ideas to realize her vision of combining “agriculture” and other elements of the society s (such as education, industry, tourism, etc.) at our session #25.
Ms. Kato is the winner of Grand Prize of the Women Entrepreneur Business Plan Competition organized by Development Bank of Japan and has served as a member of the blue ribbon commission entitled “Future we choose” under the Fiscal and Economic Policy council. Her business leader blog on Nihon Keizai Shimbun has been very popular.
At our session #25 of “Davos.. in Tokyo” series, we want to think about “agriculture” and “food” from new perspectives, as agricultural reform and TPP has been a popular topic for debate. What complicates the issue even more is that agriculture has many stakeholders with diverse interests such as JA, policy makers, consumers, retailers, and farmers overseas. We may ask you to do role play representing different parties.
Come and join us to think creatively about the future of agriculture and food. For media reports on Ms. Kato and her company, M2lab. Check the following. http://www.dbj.jp/en/pdf/service/advisory/wec/finalist_01.pdf