PLANTALK Vol.2 ~ Collaboration of Real Farm & IT changing the future of Urban Farming ~ Urban Farming Club Takashi Ogura × PLANTIO CEO Takayoshi Serizawa Interview Prequel

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In Shibuya, where he bases his work, Takashi Ogura practices urban farming on the rooftops of buildings. How is it that Mr. Ogura, who’s main business is publishing and advertising, got into urban farming? And how will PLANTIO be involved with the urban farms that Mr. Ogura creates. 

When I started planting vegetables on the rooftops of buildings, my lifestyle changed! 

Ogura : The first time I met Mr. Serizawa was at a debriefing session in Shibuya called, “Shibuya Neighbor Sunday”. This session started in June of 2017. 

Serizawa:That’s right. The purpose of this event was to create a community in Shibuya, and to understand what our neighbors were doing, and to collaborate with them. 

Ogura :I had a friend that was attending these sessions and he mentioned that he wanted to introduce me to someone amazing. That person was Mr. Serizawa. Though I didn’t know much about technology, I listened to him about wanting to create a community through technology. He also mentioned that he was creating an AI powered by a planter, and I thought it was all fascinating. Listening to him, I realized that though our means and ways may be different, our goal and aim are the same, and I wanted to collaborate with him. 

Ogura-san constantly felt like the rooftops were wasted space. “Once I started creating farms on rooftops, every rooftop just seemed like a potential garden to me”. 

Serizawa:The urban farming that Mr. Ogura created, is something we, PLANTIO, wanted to accomplish as well. 

Ogura :You were saying, “I want to make everyone in Shibuya farmers” 

Serizawa:We are in the process of figuring out how we can accomplish that. How can we have everyone interested in planting vegetables? 

Ogura-san, why did you start urban farming? 

Ogura :It was the the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11th. Products disappeared from the shelves of supermarkets and convenient stores. I saw the reality where things couldn’t be bought. I realized that no matter how much money one has, those who produces food has the leverage. From that, I became interested in farming. Through interviewing farmers around the country, I met farmers in Sagamihara city in Kanagawa prefecture, that practice natural farming. And in 2014, we created, “Weekend Farmers”. 

Picture: Ogura (second row, second person from the left), and Yusei (Second row, front with purple shirt) who were central in creating “Weekend Farmers”. The picture is taken with participants of the first Corn Matsuri in Sagamiko farm. 

Serizawa:What relationship is there between the farmers in Sagamihara and the urban farms in Shibuya? 

Ogura :While listening to the farmers of Sagamihara, I realized how tough it is to run an organic business. Then a switch turned on within me, and I wanted to help put more food on their table. Around the same time, I was told that I would be able to use one of the rooftops in Shibuya. Through that, under the supervision of pro farmers, I decided to start farming vegetables in Shibuya. 

Serizawa:With the catchphrase “Farmers of Shibuya”, we started creating farms on top of rooftops of buildings in Shibuya. It was shock that even places like this could be turned into farms. 

Mr. Ogura believed that with the capital growth system that was implemented in London due to the 2012 Olympics / Paralympics, people would be able to enjoy growing vegetables on their spare time. 
Mr. Serizawa believed that personally sectionalized farming should be changed and reviewed, and rather a shared single-farm should be created

Ogura :Being taught by a pro-farmer is huge. We can ask whenever we don’t know something, or if something is going wrong. In the end, the farmer’s salary went up around 3x, and I believe one of my mission was accomplished. Through this, participating members started growing vegetables in their own homes. Many thought, “ I didn’t know you can grow such delicious vegetables in Shibuya. I want to try on my own as well.” 

Serizawa:That’s fantastic! Their lifestyle changed. 

Picture: In the centre of Shibuya/Dogenzaka love hotel avenue, stands “TSUTAYA O-EAST”, a rooftop farm. Here, not only vegetables, but used pet bottles are are utilized to create the Shibuya Farm. In its first year, it was able to farm 30 bowls worth of rice. 

Ogura :Until recently, the members and I were running around the town drinking until the morning. But now, “on our days off we like to wake up early, take care of the weeds and vegetables, maybe drink a beer for lunch”. We’ve all become old. 

Serizawa:Vegetable growing is just that much fun. We, PLANTIO, would also like to try out many things to spread the notion that farming and vegetable growing can be fun.

Takashi Ogura 
Editor, creative director. On the one hand working in the publishing and advertising industry, he is also a writer that interviews organic farmers around the nation. In 2015, with the catchphrase “A Green Grocery of farms from raising to eating”, he created the Weekend Farmers, and thus began farming on the rooftops of buildings in Shibuya. In February of 2018, to aim for an organic urban farming lifestyle, he created the Urban Farmers Club. He opened 4 rooftop farms in Shibuya, Harajuku, and Ebisu.