Jincheon, a town in Chungcheongbuk-do, South Korea, is surrounded by fields and greenhouses. Born and raised here, Lee Ho-myung, 39, CEO of Bujubu Farm, is a rising star in the business world. After becoming the youngest agricultural meister in the country last year, he has won awards at various prestigious agricultural competitions. He generates annual sales of 750 million won ($576,272) from 15 facility houses, including eight Korea strawberry smart farms. He is the first in the country to develop a technology that allows strawberries to be nursed three times a year, making him three times more profitable than other farmers. His next goal is to become one of only three “strawberry masters” in the country. We find out his three commandments for success.
Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today: the biggest secret is meticulousness and integrity. “In all my years of farming, I’ve never put off until tomorrow what I can do today,” he insists. It’s not just an attitude. Since 2013, when he started farming strawberries, Lee has kept a farming journal every day. It’s an important part of his daily routine to hand-write the day’s work in the logbook after dinner. “I’ve always been able to move forward by recording everything, whether it’s good or bad,” he says. Diligence also has a manufactured side. Especially when it comes to running a smart farm, it’s impossible to be lazy. “When you think of smart farming, you think it’s easy to farm,” Lee said, “but it’s actually a lot more work because smart farms and smartphones are interconnected, so there are more things to think about 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Furthermore, he has 104 smart farm ‘channels,’ which is the highest number in the country for a single farm. A channel is a device that regulates the temperature and humidity inside a smart farm. Compared to the average farmer’s 20 or so channels, this is five times more control over the smart farm.
Invest firmly and boldly: the second secret is to invest boldly. For example, “when we installed air conditioning in the facility house, we also introduced a misting device and multi-layer thermal curtains. The misting device further reduces the temperature during the day and darkens the interior at night, while providing airtight cooling. As a result, even in the middle of summer, the greenhouse temperature was reduced by more than 5℃ and early strawberry bud break was achieved.”
He didn’t hesitate to purchase a relatively expensive cold storage unit. Cold storage is a room where runners are kept at minus 1℃ or below for more than 800 hours in order to produce good stems (runners) for strawberry propagation. No expense was spared to produce high-quality seedlings of a single variety.
Furthermore, Lee was the first in Korea to develop a port for runners to emerge, making it possible to produce strawberries and nursery stock at the same time. This has resulted in the successful release of more than 200,000 seedlings a year.
The field is the answer: Lee is also active in communicating with the field. He is currently a strawberry professor at Chungbuk Agricultural Meister University’s Young CEO Program and a professor of long-term field training at Korea Agriculture and Fisheries University. Over the past eight years, he has had 18 field trainees. He has more than 3,500 members on the KakaoTalk group he runs to promote strawberry cultivation.
His tendency to put the field at the center of his thinking is also reflected in his life goals and business plans. His dream is to open an agricultural school where anyone who wants to learn can easily knock on the door.
He also has a different perspective on the plant factory business. “If you design and operate a plant factory to produce relatively expensive fruits and vegetables such as strawberries instead of leafy vegetables, where the product price is much lower compared to the investment cost, it will be profitable enough,” he said.
The full text of this representative success secret can be found in “The N Commandments of Coriander,” an exclusive content for members of the Digital Farmer’s Newspaper. The N Commandments of Coriander contains the brand-name know-how of leading farmers in each field for successful farming.