A Change of Direction
Tomato: Fruit, vegetable, or ornament?
How to classify a tomato? For botanists, it’s a fruit; for nutritionists, it’s a vegetable. Either way, it’s generally consumed as a tasty part of numerous cuisines. But did you know that for nearly 200 years after their introduction into Japan in the mid17th century, tomatoes were cultivated as ornaments?
It was not until the early 20th century that tomatoes began to be more widely accepted as food in Japanese cuisine and not until the 1960s that cultivation became widespread. Today, Japan grows over 700,000 tonnes of tomatoes per year. Among those growers is Endo Kiwami, a tomato and rice farmer working closely with UPL and the Japanese government to find new, more sustainable cultivation methods.
A winding road
Endo started his career building roads for a construction company with a tomato growing side business. Turning off into the company’s tomato department, he developed a deep interest in agriculture and decided to forge his own path. In January 2016, Endo and his wife purchased land near their home and launched Kiwami Farm in 2019. Today, they grow 4,000 square metres of tomatoes and 20,000 square metres of rice.
Over the past three years, Endo has been working closely with UPL and we’ve provided an inputs package tailored to his cultivation system. Based around biosolutions, it ensures greater sustainability, higher yields, and increased profitability. The inputs he uses include Natupol, a simple bumblebee hive developed by Koppert that we supply, which provides natural pollination for indoor-grown crops. Endo also uses our VitalRoot biosolution that improves root biomass using active ingredient enzymes extracted from seaweed.
Endo is also working closely with the Japanese agricultural authorities to analyse crop pests. By working with the government, Endo is playing a part in identifying the factors that cause pest damage and, from this, extrapolating ways that cropping procedures can be adapted to prevent pests. In this way, he is making a real contribution to wider efforts to improve pest prevention in a sustainable way.
The road ahead
Farmers like Endo show how smallholders the world over are making big differences. Thanks to his passion, we’re not only getting to eat (or display) sustainably grown produce, we’re also getting insights into how we can farm more sustainably. Thanks to Endo, the road forward for sustainable agriculture becomes straighter every day.