The Predicament of Yoda Farm

Yoda Farm in Chuo City, Yamanashi Prefecture, has devoted itself to tomatoes for half a century. Although they used to be one of the top tomato producers in Japan during the bubble period about 30 years ago, the average age of farmers is now in their late 70s, and they've had difficulty getting young people interested. Then came 2020 with the double punch of falling market prices due to the pandemic and a massive outbreak of pests and diseases caused by abnormal weather.

Determined to regain some of the vitality of their golden years, Yoda Farm teamed up with local sake brewery Shichiken 七賢 on a new project and crowdfunding campaign, using imperfectly shaped but otherwise perfectly good-tasting tomatoes to create a new product, Tomato Shiokōji トマト塩糀.

The campaign has already exceeded its 4.4 million yen goal with 4 days remaining before the deadline on April 5th 18:00 JST, with over 500 people participating.

Even after the project is over, Yoda Farm hopes to continue in its efforts to become a "New Generation Farm," focusing on a P2C as well as D2C business model.

What is Shiokōji

Kōji (麹 or 糀) is steamed rice that has been treated with koji mold spores (Aspergillus oryzae) and is a key ingredient in everything from miso, soy sauce, sake, mirin, rice vinegar, amazake, and shochu. Shiokōji 塩糀 is the simplest way of using kōji as a seasoning in your cooking. Made with kōji, water and salt, you can use it to marinate, tenderize, and enhance the umami of foods. Although it existed centuries ago, it has made a comeback in the last decade or so.

Tomato Shiokōji トマト塩糀

  • Using a special manufacturing method, all parts of the tomato, from skins, seeds, etc. are used, creating a rich, concentrated flavor that can be used in a variety of dishes.
  • Each bottle contains a total of 10 imperfectly shaped tomatoes that can't be sold at greengrocers despite their good taste.
  • Yoda Farm uses shiokōji from Shichiken Brewery operated by Yamanashi Meijo Corporation 山梨銘醸株式会社. The product is developed, processed, and produced all locally in Yamanashi Prefecture.

You can use this delicious Tomato Shiokōji as it is from the bottle as a dip or seasoning, spread on bruschetta, as a condiment for various tomato dishes, pasta sauce, hot and cold soups, casseroles, and so much more. Tomato lovers will surely enjoy it.

If you act quickly, you can still participate in the crowdfunding campaign which ends on April 5, 18:00 JST. Various tiers of rewards are available, beginning with 3 bottles of Tomato Shiokōji (180 ml x 3) for 3,680 JPY, a 20% discount from the normal price, fresh Yoda Farm tomatoes and more.

Project Goals

Re-evaluating the worth of imperfect vegetables

Unfortunately, about 10% to 15% of all vegetables in Japan are discarded in the fields as substandard, even though they taste as good as grade-A vegetables. By taking the initiative to process and commercialize these crops, farmers can reevaluate their value and solve the problems of unreasonable planting plans as well as food loss and food waste at the same time.

Opening up the traditionally closed agricultural industry to outside collaborations

It's essential to shed the image of a closed agricultural industry and create opportunities for active collaboration and dissemination of information to the outside world, as well as researching and developing new products, marketing methods, and sales routes.

Striving to become D2C/P2C farmers

In addition to shipping the products to JA (Japan Agricultural Cooperatives) stores and markets, Yoda Farm will continue to reach out directly to consumers through crowdfunding, social media, e-commerce sites, etc. By delivering products directly to consumers, they hope to gain fans rather than customers, which will help to establish a stable farming business.

Promotional video for Yoda Farm tomatoes:

In addition to Tomato Shiokōji, Yoda Farm also raises a variety of vegetables and tomatoes for you to choose from.

Yoda Farm links

By - grape Japan editorial staff.