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Japan academia-industry body running online course on PFALs

The Japan Plant Factory Association (JPFA), a nonprofit organization committed to advancing controlled-environment agriculture, is running its Introductory Training Course in English online.

The online course, which started on Oct. 8 for a run through Nov. 2, is available for not only members but also nonmembers of the JPFA, which operates on a Chiba University campus in Kashiwa, northeast of Tokyo.

The lecturers include Toyoki Kozai, honorary president of the JPFA and former Chiba University president, who is known as the father of plant factories, or vertical farms.

The JPFA's training courses based on academia-industry partnership are unique in the world. The organization has offered some 10 on-site training courses in Japanese every year since 2010 and one course in English every year since 2018.

However, the coronavirus pandemic hitting the world this year prompted the organization to give attention to online courses provided via the Internet. The ongoing course is its first online English one.

In Japanese, it has already offered three online training courses so far this year, with each combining lectures and a session to answer questions from the audience.

Regarding whether it will shift to online courses, JPFA President Toshitaka Yamaguchi says that it will "proceed with online courses in parallel with on-site ones.

"The JPFA has what turns out to be 'not good enough' if it is for online courses," Yamaguchi says. But he adds that the organization is working to make what is offered on face-to-face opportunities usable for online courses.

"There is a lot the JPFA can offer," but it is difficult to make "fancy" content for online courses, he says.

The online English course goes to great lengths not to lose on-site quality, making full use of videos for lectures and demonstrations.

It is offering a virtual tour of JPFA-overseen plant factories with comprehensive explanations and that to a fully automated underground plant factory run by a Japanese company known for material handling equipment.

Because the course is online, it may be easier to attend it than an on-site one, especially for those interested who live outside Japan.

As an online meetup for presentations by participants is scheduled for next week along with a live question-and-answer session before the application deadline expires on Oct. 26, the course certainly deserves consideration now.

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