Every other year, the Kyushu-Okinawa Agricultural Research Center in Kurume City, Fukuoka Prefecture, opens up their campus to showcase the facility’s current areas of research and allow residents to sample the agricultural products (food) they're working on. For this visitor (and husband) it was our first time living in the city when the event happened and if we're still here in a couple of years, we'd like to go again.
The research center is close to Kurume University's Mii Campus and Kurume Daigakou Mae Station.
Upon entering the campus, we were welcomed with several tables covered by tentage with a line already forming in front of one particular table. After checking the sign, it turns out that everyone was waiting for free 'jam-use' strawberries from the research center's greenhouses. We collected a map of the campus at a nearby table and took our own place in the line. A few minutes later, research center staff rode up on a little utility vehicle with the back full of just-picked strawberries. With a group of staff helping to quickly bag them up, the strawberries were handed out to each person in line. They smelled great but we were told to refrain from eating them in their current state; they were to be heated first. I'm not sure as to why the strawberries should need heating up, and also whether or not they are unsafe to eat straight from the greenhouses.
During a tour of the facility’s greenhouses visitors were shown several charts of the strawberry growing season and images from inside greenhouses. For the center’s current project, research is being conducted into how to grow greenhouse strawberries all year round, despite the high temperatures of Japan’s summer. (Summer season is the only time they aren't able to produce strawberries, because it's too hot for the plants to flower.) Researchers at the facility have been experimenting with air conditioning the greenhouses during warm weather in order to get temperatures low enough. They are hoping to produce strawberries at a low enough cost year round, so that the fruit doesn’t need to be imported during summer.
Visitors are not allowed to enter the greenhouses, as any viruses that they may be carrying could be transmitted to the plants. However, I did see a few honey bees inside the greenhouses and so asked about how they get inside. Do strawberries need bees to pollinate their flowers? It turns out that the research center rents bees from a beekeeper and rotates the hive from greenhouse to greenhouse. (Unfortunately, the beehives are not rented long enough to collect any honey.) Strawberries do not technically need bees to pollinate their flowers, but when it's done by the research staff, the seeds on the strawberries aren't arranged in as natural of a pattern as when bees pollinate them.
In one of the buildings, we were shown the research center's work with growing lettuce and sprouts indoors using LED lights. All of this was quite interesting considering the changes to the agricultural industry that Japan and other countries are going through. It seems that farming is evolving from an outdoor job (that is mostly done by an aging population) to something that can be done indoors more and more, and by young, educated professionals.
After the tour, we went inside another nearby building where we could see several booths showing vegetables like larger spinach and asparagus plants. Having never seen how asparagus grows, we found this area particularly interesting!
By filling out a survey visitors to the Kyushu-Okinawa Agricultural Research Center can receive a present of three plants to take home. What was left for us was mostly flowers (the last cucumber plant had just been taken). We opted for the only other edible plant left, endo mame, or string beans. They already have tiny green beans forming, a few weeks later.
Oh, and the strawberry jam was amazing!
Article by 'helloalissa' at www.city-cost.com
Kyushu-Okinawa Agricultural Research Center
Fukuoka Prefecture, Kurume City, Mii-machi 1823-1