“Noutenki Co.” Urban Agriculture Business in KUNITACHI

Rainbow on a day.
Rainbow on a day.

Vegetable fields times WHAT-Fresh Sensitivity to Urban Agriculture

Noutenki Co. started in Kunitachi City, which is located an hour ride from the Metropolitan of Tokyo, with an ambition of seeking a new wave to empower urban agriculture. They hope to bridge city dwellers and farms/farmers. The business offers various services:

Operating agricultural farms, organizing agricultural events, cooperating with TV program production, and holding marriage hunting parties. Also, they work together with civic groups, the local government and companies in a variety of industries.

Atsushi Ono, CEO is concerned with creating interfaces between vegetable fields and citizens. About ten years ago he quit the job in a TV production company and made a carrier switch to agricultural business. It was just after he had been to the Philippines for shooting a TV program of a Japanese man who used to work for a trading company and then became a farmer there.

Ono was fascinated by the importance of farming, which is essential for all living things, and made up his mind to be a part of an agricultural business.

First he worked for an agricultural production corporation run by a major Izakaya company and learned how to grow vegetables. And then, he worked really hard more than fifteen hours every day in an agricultural area of 10 ha in Chiba pref. to get the annual income of only two million and four hundred thousand yen. OH, My God! He became painfully aware of a breaking point to continue urban agriculture in the hard way.

When you are not an agricultural landowner, urban agreculture would never end ever make big money because of the landowener’s interests who pays property tax and city planning tax.

Ono does not think the role of agriculture is properly evaluated as far as it creates something valuable to the society as other industries do. With his diverse experiences and a sense of crisis, he strives to appeal to the society and make a change in urban agriculture. At the same time, he challenges to offer a potential gain of the land and work on tax issues too.

For example, the company operates Hatakenbo, a model project of vegetable gardens in Kunitachi. Those gardens are generally rented to individuals, but he offers the gardens to companies and groups instead. This is because the number of individual users is totally limited to the land plats, so the mobility and diversity would not be born. But, companies can use the gardens for customer service and workers’ benefit programs, so much more people have opportunities to know what it is like to grow vegetables.

Another interesting program is marriage hunting party. It provides a place for young people to know more about urban agriculture business. Now, two ponies which were accepted into the land from the neighboring city Hino last year become good friends for children.

Ono also welcomes to collaborate closely with colleges. The class of Prof. Tokue, Faculty of International Tourisum, Toyo University offer credits to students who take food culture course such as “HARAL food BBQ” with very rigid discipline. What’s the next? Ninja Project, exclusively for foreigners and publishing a book on urban agriculture. Both are now in progress.

Ono goes on challenging because a common idea that agriculture can be controlled only by farmers has to be changed and the potential of vegetable fields needs to be unlocked and harnessed in many ways. He has strived to put value on “vegetable fields x WHAT” to connect vegetable fields and people/society. He will figure out constantly issues  together with agricultural landowners that are going to challenge him.

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