While our first sip surprised us, each subsequent sip increased our enjoyment of this superb tomato juice, energized by sun and earth, bursting with fresh sweetness. We discovered it at Agrish Farm, in the city of Karatsu, in Saga Prefecture. The vivid flavor was so superior to others’ we were astounded. And that Akinori Yoshida, owner of the farm, had launched his agricultural business just three years ago was incredible.
“Tomatoes cultivated by ordinary methods have a sugar content of 6 or 7. My tomatoes have a sugar content of about 10. When the tomato is this sweet, the juice turns out delicious, too. Normally, tomato juice is pasteurized to reduce the water content and increase the concentration of flavor. But pasteurization affects the original taste of the tomato. I wanted to make a juice that delivers the luscious flavor of the tomato as is.”
To this end, Mr. Yoshida set his sights on Imec film farming, where the plant absorbs water and nutrients not from the soil but from a hydrogel film. The limited amount of water and nutrients puts the tomatoes under a certain amount of stress and naturally raises the sugar content. Soil-free farming also comes with the benefits of preventing contamination by bacteria and, more importantly nowadays, viruses. In addition, this process significantly reduces the use of chemicals. Still, this was only his third year of farming. We wondered what kind of passion lay behind the successful cultivation of such delectable tomatoes.
“Originally, I was a management consultant specializing in welfare. I was an absolute amateur when it came to agriculture. But I felt the welfare situation was getting tougher for both management and workers, so I began to search for a new way to combine industry with social welfare. The solution I arrived at was agri-welfare: Alleviate the shortage of manpower in agriculture by promoting participation by disabled people.”
To realize his dream, Mr. Yoshida studied the cutting-edge concept of Imec film farming and secured a plot of farmland. To process the tomatoes into juice without relying on pasteurization, he paid a personal visit to one of Japan’s best known mikan orange farms and asked for guidance. Leveraging the production method designed to leave just the right amount of pulp in mikan orange juice, he created a brand-new original tomato juice.
“My business model creates a rewarding job for disabled people and makes good use of farmland that would otherwise go to waste. Now if I could spread the practice of Imec film farming, it might even persuade youths who have left Saga to return and start farming businesses of their own.”
Mr. Yoshida’s grand vision of improving the lives of many has already born fruit in an innovative approach to a tomato drink that we previously took for granted. But is our experience further enhanced by Mr. Yoshida’s desire to reuse lost land and help those in need? Is his inspirational story an additional ingredient in his tomato juice? Certainly, it is for us. We encourage you to find out if it is for you as well by seeking out a cup of what we feel to be the world’s most delicious tomato juice.