A small-scale, organic farming system in Japan is currently providing a rice yield that exceeds industrial rice systems’ harvests by 20-50%. The higher yield combined with the production of a variety of other food stuffs, grown synergistically with the rice, means that with just six acres, Japanese farmer Takao Furuno sometimes eclipses the gross income of a typical 600 acre rice farm in Texas.
Small margins on agricultural produce, means making a decent living from farming often requires large scale production. However most farmers around the world only have access to a small plot. Can these farms still make healthy profits?
Using none of the fossil fuel fertilisers and pesticides traditionally required to grow high-yield monoculture crops the farm, which has been modelled on complex dynamic living systems, produces an impressive range of food products, including rice, duck eggs, fish, duck meat, vegetables, wheat and figs.
The complex multi-species farm, which is completely independent of any outside farm inputs, first requires rice seedlings to be set into flooded rice paddies, before introducing a raft of ducklings. Insects that normally feed on the young rice plants, provide food for the ducklings. Mr Furuno then introduces loaches, which are a variety of easily cultivated fish, and Azolla, a water fern, which fixes nitrogen from the air providing a natural substitute for artificial fertilisers. Its growth is kept under control by the grazing ducks and fish. The fish and duck droppings provide additional nutrients that the rice needs to flourish.
Cost savings from eliminating fertilisers and pesticides and increased yields mean Furuno can market his rice at a 20-30% premium over conventionally grown rice in Japan. This very successful, organic synergy now sees Furuno enjoy an annual income of USD 160,000, while his methods have been shared and employed by 75,000 small-scale farmers in Japan, as well as South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, China, Taiwan, India, Cuba and Bangladesh.