What is a Mega-Wasabi Farm™?
For the last 25 years I have been advocating that the future of Wasabi Farms was in the hands of the small commercial Wasabi growers with 10,000 to 50,000 plants.
Well I must admit that now I believe that I have been wrong for all those years.
Let me tell you why.
For the past 25 years we (my wife and I) have been growing wasabi using new techniques and systems aimed at working within the confines of an owner/operator viewpoint. This means that the owner/operator should be able to do everything themselves, with a little bit of help as required.
When we first started growing wasabi we actually designed a Mega-Wasabi Farm™ for use on our initial 5 acres of land. Then we ran into trouble with the bureaucrats in the local council and the Ministry of Transport about access, toilets and parking, so we shelved the idea and carried on by ourselves. Over time, we actually forgot about our original vision of what a Mega-Wasabi Farm could be.
Now though, with the knowledge that the number of small individual wasabi growers are reducing year by year, it appears that by 2025 there will be not be enough individual wasabi growers left in the world to meet even 1% of the demand for Wasabi. That is almost the case now (2015) and we have just started the product growth cycle as Wasabi enters the mainstream for food and flavour products.
What a Mega-Wasabi Farm™ consists of.
A wasabi plant propagation centre where plants are grown using seed, tissue culture techniques and other means to provide the new plants for the growing system.
A hardening off area and system where the fragile new plants are slowly hardened off in order to stand and survive the rigours of the growing cycle.
The growing system. This is the part that most people concentrate on and tend to ignore the rest of the requirements. It is however, only a small part of the whole, it is an important part but not the only thing that must go right.
Harvesting and preliminary processing. This is the start of the processing cycle whether the product is going to be a fresh root for sale to a posh restaurant, or a powder used by the gourmet cook. Getting this part wrong can be the difference between making a profit or wasting your time, money and resources getting to this point.
Secondary processing. This is where the Wasabi is processed into the final basic product for the customers. This can be fresh Wasabi root, or freeze-dried powders packaged in bulk and/or retail packs.
Cleaning and sterilisation of the growing system prior to replanting is also necessary and very important to get right. Transferring problems between growing batches is a major cause of problems. In a Mega-Wasabi Farm the planting and replanting happens on a continuous basis throughout the year.
There is the potential to add a manufacturing plant into the Mega-Wasabi Farm for the production of such items as sauces, dips, pickles, medical products and supplements.
The most important part of the Mega-Wasabi Farm is the Marketing department. There is no point growing, harvesting and producing Wasabi products if you can’t sell the final products produced.
In addition there are the machinery and equipment workshops and installation areas. All equipment needs to work correctly or the results obtained are rubbish. This will require tradespeople to maintain and repair the equipment. Don’t forget the spares that need to be held for repairs.
There will need to be personnel changing rooms, showers and toilet facilities, offices for the general business operations – getting paid and making payments.
Storage areas, refrigerated storage, roads, parking, drainage and electrical distribution all need to be part of the overall design.
Water collection, storage, treatment and distribution also need to be an initial part of the original design of a Mega-Wasabi Farm. I can tell you from experience that moving piping when you are operational is a big pain, and should be avoided at all costs. The same is true of power lines as well – especially if they are underground.
All of this means that the number of people you will be employing on the Mega-Wasabi Farm will be 35 -50 people on a full-time basis.
Is there the cash flow to employ this number of people and operate the facility until the first harvest is complete and sold?
Is there enough income from sales to maintain the facility – this needs to include repair, maintenance and replacement?
A Mega-Wasabi Farm™ is set up to operate 24/7/365 and ship product (fresh, processed or manufactured) on a 5 day per week schedule in order to always arrive at the various markets fresh.
In order to achieve this all the above areas need to work together. In a small operation this is all done by the owner/operator, but once the size gets over 50,000 plants this becomes almost impossible.
A Mega-Wasabi Farm™ will consist of a minimum of 1,000,000 (one million) plants with the average ones having a capacity of 10,000,000 (ten million) plants on a continuous basis.
It is for this reason that Mega-Wasabi Farms must become a reality otherwise it is likely that Wasabi will disappear from the market place and be totally replaced with the fake stuff.
The budget cost for setting up a Mega-Wasabi Farm™ like this (10,000,000 plants) is likely to be in the region of $100,000,000 (One hundred million dollars), which tends to put it outside the means of an individual grower to fund. 🙂
The Mega-Wasabi Farm™ will require external investment by a number of people to become a reality. It could be a privately held company owned by a group of large end users, similar to refineries being jointly owned by energy companies.
What do you think?
Is this likely to happen in the near future?
Make you comments below.