Last month, NZAPI CEO Terry Meikle and I lead a visit to the eastern edge of Asia, Japan. A country composed of nearly 7,000 islands, with over 127 million people sharing the Pacific Ocean with us. The visit was alongside NZ stakeholders Plant and Food Research and Lincoln University, with the company and guidance of the High Commission team based in Tokyo.
Arriving in Narita, taking the metro to our hotel in the centre of Tokyo, we could already sense the polite and friendly people, fascinating economy, technical wizardry, rich culture, active religions, and strong traditions. A country of ambiguous communities and contradictions. Indigenous culture mixed with contemporary modern culture that has strongly influenced young populations.
The aim of the NZAPI visit was to continue supporting partnerships with the Japanese apple industry, allowing our industries to go further together. The strategic and beneficial location that makes us counter-season countries, enables the opportunity to offer our high-quality produce in times when the Japanese offer is low or nil. This satisfies a busy and demanding market, while at the same time creating a beneficial and continuous supply of good apples, increasing the demand from a happy consumer who is experiencing the taste and texture of a fresh, crispy, and sweet apple with sustainable access all year round.
NZAPI went with a clear view of developing cooperation between those who carry the “know how” of our industry to help our neighbour industry thrive, as well as to explore the industry-to-industry relationships for future businesses.
In Tokyo, we had the opportunity to engage with the international division of MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries) who are dealing with the lack of young workforce – aggravated by an ageing population – and the excessive cost of farmland. They are struggling to attract young forces into the primary industry when there are so many other work options to choose from in buzzing cities.
We met with the Field for Knowledge Integration and Innovation team (KFII), a new form of industry-academia-government collaboration that aligns with the way we see research combined with academia industry and government.
In the new and advanced technologies, we met with Nihon Agri, a six-year-old company with a vision on exports of Japanese fruits. The team is adopting the 2D canopy system and looking forward to connecting with NZ soon. We arrived at NARO Apple Research Station Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture Institute of Fruit tree and Tea Science, where we visited some of their apple research blocks and commercial orchards ready to be harvested. We had the opportunity to visit JA Iwate Central Fruit packing house and storage site in full action.
Photo 1: Original Apple Tree “Fuji” cultivari. Morioka -Shimokuriyagawa 18/10/2022
Counsellor David Allen, MPI Policy Adviser Zea Rose,CEO NZAPI Terry Meikle, NZAPI Int Engagement Mgr. Dr Elena Duter, Prof. Hugh Bigsby (LU), Dr Jolon Dyer (PFR), Dr Jim Walker (PFR)
On our visit to Aomori (700 km from Tokyo) we experienced the spectacular landscapes during a three-and-a-half-hour trip on the bullet train to the apple capital. We visited the historic Japanese Hirosaki University, founded in 1949, with an enrolment of approximately 6,500 students. The university is situated at the northern end of Honshu Island, and we met with researchers and PhD students focused on climate change and sustainability. From the outskirts of the train station to the middle of the city, Aomori talks apples! The diversity of apple sub-products was countless, including lollies, cakes, pastries, pancakes, cider, whiskey, vodka … to gadgets, home decor, toys, art (museums of apples, sculptures, paintings, street art, billboards and neon advertisements amongst many others).
A recommended visit and experience for any apple grower.
NZAPI Int Engagement Mgr. Dr Elena Duter