2022 Activity Report vol.6:University of Yamanashi

Activity Report of Open Application Program 2022 vol.6 (Course A)

U.S. University students experience agriculture in Yamanashi Prefecture
—Thinking about advantages and problems facing agriculture in Japan and the United States—

Bachelor of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Yamanashi
Report from Associate Professor Ryota Kataoka

 As part of the Sakura Science Exchange Program's Science and Technology Experience Course, students and faculty members from Hawkeye Community College in the United States visited Japan from September 14 to 19. At the University of Yamanashi's Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences, they learned about sustainable soil management and types of agriculture that connect Japan and the United States. The purpose of this program is to provide students from both Japan and the United States with the opportunity to create new ideas through experiencing agriculture in Yamanashi Prefecture, realizing the differences in types of agriculture between Japan and the United States, and discussing the advantages and problems of different types of agriculture in Japan and the United States with students from the University of Yamanashi.

 First, the participants visited a next−generation horticulture facility (tomato cultivation) in Hokuto City, where they learned about ultra−efficient production technologies that incorporate technologies from the Netherlands. Yamanashi Prefecture boasts the highest solar efficiency in Japan, and many companies have production facilities that implement smart agriculture. For this course, we visited Agrimind. Everyone was surprised when they saw tomatoes growing around 15 meters high in a computer−controlled greenhouse.

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 We then visited a poultry farm that was one of the first to receive an Organic JAS certification. In 2021, Yamanashi Prefecture established the Yamanashi Animal Welfare Certification System Review Council and founded the Yamanashi Animal Welfare Certification System, making it the first municipality in Japan to make such a system. We visited Kurofuji Farm, which pursued stress−free poultry farming that coexisted with nature, and poured effort into animal welfare. There are currently seven farms certified under Yamanashi Prefecture's certification system, including Kurofuji Farm. The participants learned that Kurofuji Farm is particular about their chicken feed; the chickens are docile because they are not stressed, and the chicken droppings are composted. The participants listened with great interest at Agrimind and Kurofuji Farm.

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Kurofuji Farm
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 Farms in Yamanashi Prefecture utilize small space efficiently, so their methods are very different from those of large−scale farming in Iowa. On the third day, the students from Hawkeye and our school gathered in one of the Department of Environmental Sciences' student laboratories, where they described agriculture from their respective countries, and the students from our school described their individual research. Then they toured the laboratory.

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The students describing agriculture from their respective countries and exchanging opinions

 That afternoon, the participants learned about agricultural management using drones, a practice with growing demand in recent years. They also took turns practicing operating a small drone at our school's Omagari Farm. Yamanashi Prefecture is conducting demonstration experiments using drones to spray pesticides in orchards, and drones are expected to be used more in the future. After operating the drones, the participants went to a training room at the Omagari Farm where they learned examples of drone use. They exchanged opinions on the possibilities of drone technology, such as studying wild animals in drainage basins or nutrients of vineyards in farms using drones mounted with thermal cameras.

 The participants exchanged opinions with faculty members and students from our school while enjoying yakiniku for dinner.

 On the fourth day, they went to the Fuji Five Lakes area, where they listened to an explanation of Mt. Fuji and volcanic ash, the parent material of andosols which accounts for about half of Japan's arable land, and discussed the difference between andosols and mollisol, which covers much of Iowa. In the wind cave, we saw up−close lava traces from the time Mt. Fuji erupted and studied how the soil was created.

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The wind cave

 On the fifth day, although a typhoon was approaching, we visited the Miraikan in Tokyo to experience traditional and modern culture. Afterward, we went to Asakusa and got first−hand experience of Japanese culture.

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 Through the nine−day program, we were able to create teaching materials and a research program to enable cultural exchange. We also had productive discussions regarding continued research and educational exchanges between both universities. Lastly, many administrative staff and faculty members spent time in their busy schedules so we could implement the Sakura Science Exchange Program, which connected research, education, and international exchange, and I think it was a good experience for our university. In this manner, we completed the program successfully.