And in Japan, farm fresh is now just a text message away. Farmers and grocers have teamed up to feed the growing demand for fresh produce through farmer's markets. There are now more than 17,000 of them in Japan. Customers love the cheaper prices and fresh produce. NHK shows us how managers of one market have found a way to ensure their apples are even crisper, and greens even greener.
Every year more than a million people pull into this parking lot in Utsunomiya north of Tokyo. This is one of Japan's busiest farm markets. Last year it sold over 5-million-dollars' worth of produce. There's a huge variety of fruit and vegetables, all sourced from 150 local farms. The big draw is price. Most items cost 10% less than an ordinary supermarket.
There's such a great variety. I shop in many different places, but I always end up coming back here.
The secret to the market's success? A great selection of produce that's literally farm fresh. Nothing is left to chance. Each purchase is logged and analyzed at the cash register. The data is then sent direct to suppliers, the farmers themselves. Akemi Ikeda supplies more than 30 varieties of vegetables to the market. Even out in the fields she's kept in the loop.
It's from the farm market.
Each farmer gets data on their sales sent to them by text message once an hour.
Twenty bunches of chrysanthemum greens. I'll pick some more straightaway.
Right away, Ikeda starts pulling up more of the greens. She and her husband tie them in bunches, then rush them over to the market. This is how the market always keeps its produce fresh, by adjusting supply to meet demand in real time.
It's really encouraging to see how much I've sold each day. It's great.
This just in time supply system was set up by the market's manager, Yuzuru Matsumoto. Matsumoto has overseen a sharp rise in business. In the past five years, the number of visitors has risen by over 25%.
We try to look at it from the customer's point of view, and give them the service they want. We're always looking to improve the way we do things.
There's another factor that helps to motivate the farmers. The market lets the growers set their own prices for their produce. It takes just a 15% commission. Everything else goes to the farmers. The farmers coordinate closely with the market staff in deciding which vegetables to grow.
As for the spinach between December 27th and the 31st we were about 300 kilograms short.
I'm thinking of sewing some after my tomatoes. If I put in 2- 300 square meters, that should be about right.
Holding regular meetings like this has changed the way the farmers think about their crops. Makoto Watanabe started working the land 7 years ago. He now grows six kinds of carrots. Most of these are new varieties that he'd never thought of before.
It's really fun coming up with new products to sell and ways to create a market for them.
I think the producers feel much more involved as participants in this business.
From the field to the market and then straight to customers. It's an approach that works for everyone.