Asai Nursery, a tomato grower, is a household name within the Japanese horticultural world. They aim to be a role model for the next generation’s large-scale greenhouse farming and want to increase agricultural competition and vegetable production in Japan.
How it began
The family business began in 1907 by growing sprouts for vegetable cultivation. Mr. Asai, currently CEO and President of Asai Nursery, is the 5th generation within this horticultural organization.
After many studies and working for six years at a Management Consulting Firm in Tokyo, he returned to his hometown in 2008 to take over Asai Nursery. After, he made the transition to growing different types of tomatoes using hydroponic techniques. In 2016, Mr. Asai obtained his PhD in Digital Innovation Studies focused on tomato breeding.
Since then, he has greatly modernized the company. Mr. Asai was 19 years old when he went to the US to study, where he saw the difference in horticulture between the US and Japan. The difference he saw made Asai decide that he needed to change his family business quickly. According to him, the sector had to become more like that of Western culture
“We are currently focusing on putting certain technologies into use in our projects, for example harvesting robots and automating our production. Our goal is not only more production, but also to provide an excellent quality product,” said Mr. Asai.
Asai Nursery wants to be an added value to the agricultural sector, from crop management to distribution development. Ultimately, the company aims to develop a new and sustainable model for Japanese horticulture.
Stronger through cooperation
Mr. Asai’s right-hand woman is Tingting Wu. She has been an important link within the organization of Asai Nursery Inc. for over 7 years. She obtained her PhD in agricultural engineering with the specialization of biomass materials and the use of natural resources in agriculture. She met Mr. Asai in college, and a close friendship developed. “When I finished my studies, I went to do an internship at Asai Nursery Inc. I got a great impression of horticulture and decided to fully commit to advanced agricultural research and the development of production fields and technologies to help control and improve competitiveness in Japan, especially for tomatoes and cherry tomatoes,” Tingting adds.
Together with the R&D department, they had been looking for ways to scale up production and increase quality. “In order to better control the climate in the greenhouse, we ended up at the process computer of Hoogendoorn Growth Management in 2013. Unlike other climate computers, it has many more options. We are one of the first users in Japan and I teach our growers how to grow more sustainably using the iSii. We show them the flexible settings and how they can edit, control, and influence them,” says Mr. Asai.
Asai Nursery uses the iSii computer for controlling the climate in the greenhouse, among other things. Mr. Asai particularly notices user-friendliness. “The iSii reacts to various external influences and is safe to operate for our growers. Production is significantly higher and we use fewer natural resources. In addition, we notice that our tomatoes are of much better quality.”