A guided tour in the Blueberry Plant Factory in Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT) and the flower of winter - Sazanka
On November 9th, we gathered in front of the main gate of Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT) for another guided tour. This University was established in 1874 as an Agricultural Training Institute. In 1949 it was established as a national university, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, and now it focuses on engineering and agriculture. Its two campuses are situated in the cities of Fuchu (the faculty of agriculture) and Koganei (engineering).
When we entered the university campus in Fuchu, we went in the direction of gardens and fields around the central farm road. We did not mind a little rain.
Campus in Fuchu
Suddenly, we were pleasantly surprised with a sweet smell from the trees along the way. They were trees of Sazanka (English: Sasanqua Camellia), species of Camellia native to China and Japan. Sazanka is an evergreen shrub growing up to about 5 m tall with 5-8 white to dark pink petals. Sazanka is a flower that adds color to winter.
Trees of Sazanka
On Fuchu Campus of Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, about 300 varieties of Sazanka have been collected from Japan and overseas. Many cultivars have been gathered due to the energetic efforts of former Professor Naoki Hakota who was engaged in the research of Sazanka and Tsubaki. There are no other collections so far, therefore, it is an academically very valuable collection. There are many fields there and it is such a peaceful scenery like in the countryside. Sazanka is planted in lines along the fields. It is thanks to the rows of Sazanka trees that it was so much fun for us to walk there.
Advanced Blueberry Plant Factory
Next we went to an advanced Blueberry Plant Factory in Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT) campus. The factory features rooms of controlled environment representing four seasons. Institute of Agriculture is researching there plant production and environmental agriculture in a specially-designed advanced blueberry factory with artificial seasons.
According to the research conducted by the university, in Japan, from about 1995 the demand of Japanese consumers who are eating blueberries for their health benefits has increased rapidly. Self-sufficiency is still lacking within the country and blueberries are needed to be imported every year. In the open field production, the harvest duration of blueberry fruits in Japan is limited from June to September. In 2011, to upgrade the recent blueberry production, an advanced blueberry factory was established in Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT) as the very first factory to grow a fruit tree in a controlled environment under four seasons. This two-story plant factory mainly focuses on researches to establish profitable conditions to produce blueberries. By orderly moving Blueberry pots from summer room to autumn room, next to spring room and finally to summer room respectively, it is possible to shorten the life cycle and fruits can be harvested two times in a year. All participants of a questionnaire survey accepted factory produced blueberry fruits and then the eating quality results showed that fruits produced under artificial light were sweeter, less sour and tastier. The results have already showed that it is possible to produce off-season fruits in a controlled environment. And a fruit tree factory will be realized in future if it is possible to produce year-round with ‘high yield’, ‘high quality’, ‘safe’ and ‘secure’ fruits constantly by choosing suitable cultivars.
Global Fruits Factory
Next to the Blueberry Plant Factory, there is Global Fruits Factory, an advanced plant research facility where they research olives, strawberries, cherries and blueberries among others. Its aim is to establish, spread and brand the cultivation system with the yearly supply of fresh fruits, high yield and low environmental impact.
While leaving the premises of the university, we noticed a little shop which sells blueberry jam made from blueberries cultivated in the Blueberry Plant Factory, and other fresh fruits and vegetables.
Next we went to the horse-riding grounds of the Horse-riding Club in the Fuchu Campus of Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology.
Inside the stables
We came to the stables and saw a lot of horses!
We were lucky to see a cute pony too!
We look forward to the next guided tour!