|▲ Eco Farm City / CEO Duksang Ko|
Last year, Korean ginseng exports amounted to $270 million, the highest ever. However, Korean ginseng has recently been experiencing its greatest crisis due to falling prices, increased inventory and production costs, and a shortage of manpower. The industry is unanimous that ginseng should be converted into a high value-added industry to improve income and expand export markets. Eco Farm City, an agricultural corporation that has been researching eco-friendly farming methods for the past 20 years, has built an AI-based urban ginseng smart farm. Unlike conventional farming methods, AI KDS convergence agriculture, which cultivates, produces, processes, manufactures, sells, and distributes large quantities throughout the year without being limited by climate and environment, is evaluated as a competitive system overseas through the high added value of ginseng, and is the leader in Korean ginseng.
Innovative AI KDS farming method that is different from existing cultivation
Produced and cultivated in large quantities throughout the year and all-in-one operating system
Eco Farm City has a new agricultural building type KDS convergence smart farm animal and plant factory registered as an invention patent and intellectual property. The farm cultivates premium fermented red ginseng G21, a restored version of Korean ginseng, fermented bellflower extract, panax ginseng kimchi, mineral tofu, eco-friendly mineral foods, fruits and vegetables, grains, and special medicinal crops. These foods are recognized and exported all over the world. AI KDS, developed by CEO Ko, is a 6th agricultural industry that combines primary, secondary, and tertiary industries. Unlike conventional farming, it is capable of cultivation, production, processing, manufacturing, sales, and distribution in large quantities all year round without environmental restrictions. Ko emphasizes that hydroponic cultivation, which combines AI and KDS farming methods, is an innovative technology that is completely different from existing ginseng cultivation methods. “Farmers are investing a lot of effort and time into ginseng production. However, profitability is declining due to high production costs and low yields. In addition, ginseng demand is concentrated domestically, so exports are not active. In order to grow the market, it was urgent to increase value with competitive products and introduce new ginseng farming methods. Accordingly, I developed hydroponic cultivation technology that combines AI and KDS farming methods.” said Ko.
Increasing farmer’s income, improving health of consumers
Increasing value as a global business
AI KDS farming is an agricultural technology that optimizes the growth environment for ginseng by precisely controlling temperature, humidity, and fine dust concentration. This can utilize sensors and IoT technology to automate growing environment monitoring and data collection. Through this, growers can increase the efficiency of ginseng production and produce better quality ginseng. Using the AI KDS farming method, ginseng can be harvested in about one month, allowing continuous cultivation and increasing production. In addition, because it is grown without pesticides, it is possible to produce safe and clean ginseng. Not only the roots, but also the leaves and stems have a high saponin content, so they can be used as food ingredients such as salads, ssam vegetables, green juice, and samgyetang. The AI KDS farming method has acquired numerous patents and is currently expanding its cultivation not only in Gimpo but also nationwide. Ginseng extract is also used as a raw material for health functional foods and cosmetics and is exported to the world. The farm is building ginseng hydroponic cultivation facilities in Japan, China, and the United States and is moving toward global commercialization by requesting technical cooperation.
Increasing the value of ginseng by producing contents using K-POP and Drama
“We are pursuing various marketing strategies to promote the value and efficacy of ginseng, Korea’s representative crop and health food. “We are also thinking about ways to spread the story of K-POP stars using ginseng to maintain healthy skin and bodies, or by using scenes featuring ginseng in K-dramas to promote our products.” said Ko. Selecting stars as public relations ambassadors for ginseng and sharing videos and photos with sociazl media is also an effective strategy for global expansion. Additionally, producing a cooking show about making dishes or drinks using ginseng and providing it on YouTube or Netflix can also be expected to have a marketing effect. CEO Ko predicts that developing games, animations, and characters based on ginseng will also be a great help in increasing awareness and demand. “By developing a health game using ginseng, we can publicize its efficacy or increase awareness, which will help promote sales in the global market. We also plan to set up ginseng booths at ginseng events and K-POP festivals.” said Ko. Meanwhile, Eco Farm City is pursuing a convergence eco farm city development project in Gwangju with a 396,694m2 scale including a ginseng smart farm, eco-friendly agricultural product exhibition hall, convention trade center, country house complex, and natural healing center. In addition, The Farm signed an MOU with the Defense Information Portal of the Ministry of Defense to provide employment for retired soldiers and is creating a profit-reliant smart city complex.
[Interview with Ko and the publisher]
Eco Farm City CEO Duksang Ko opened a sterile room for a ginseng plant farm in Gimpo-si, Gyeonggi-do in August this year. Jongwon Baek, publisher of PowerKorea Monthly, toured the farm and conducted an interview.
Q. When did the plant farm open and how big is it?
A. It has been open since mid-August and is about 396 square meters.
Q. Please explain the AI KDS farming method that is currently in progress.
A. Until now, cultivation methods had been based on eco-friendly agriculture, but we have developed a mineral-rich farming method by incorporating innovative technology. Usually, ginseng needs to be grown for 4 to 6 years, but ours is an innovative farming method that allows us to grow ginseng for 4 to 6 months and commercialize it in just a month. Ginseng grown in this way is used for a variety of purposes, including red ginseng extract, powder, and extracts for cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
Q. What are your plans for entering overseas markets?
A. Our goal now is to restore excellent Korean ginseng and export it directly to the world. We have been preparing hard and are ready in many areas.
Q. What ingredients of ginseng are used as raw materials for cosmetics?
A. It is generally known that ginseng extract is used in cosmetics, but rg3, a special saponin ingredient, is used as a cosmetic raw material. This rg3 is an ingredient that can be extracted when the extraction technology or facilities like our company are equipped. After being sold to cosmetics or pharmaceutical companies, you can enter the global wholesale market and sell directly.
Q. Do you have any plans to build somewhere other than the plant farm here?
A. This place has been built as a pilot model, and we are currently planning a 396 square meter plant farm in front of Osan University Station. At that size, it can be divided into 6 levels, so it is possible to build a facility house of approximately 3,305 square meters.
Q. What is the added value of growing ginseng using this farming method?
A. AI KDS farming method can produce all types of ginseng 365 days a year. Since 1- to 6-year-old crops are produced every month, farms can also change their structure to generate monthly profits. By using our farming methods, we can change the structure where income is generated once every six years or once every four years to a structure where profits are generated every month. This farming method can generate at least 3 to 10 times more profits.
Q. So, can we say that the possibilities for entering the global market are endless?
A. If pesticides are applied during the raw material supply process, the product will be judged unsuitable due to heavy metal contamination. That is why we developed the ginseng sterile room plant factory. Because this plant farm is run using cutting-edge AI, not only is cultivation possible 365 days a year, but it also leads to monthly income. Additionally, because our materials are so superior, the cost is reduced by about 1/10. Therefore, when entering the global market, we can export the best products as the origin of Korean ginseng. Now that it is extracted and sold as a high-value product for pharmaceutical or cosmetic companies rather than for medicinal purposes, the market size is growing much larger and infinite value can be created.
Q. What kind of business agreements are currently in place?
A. This technology itself is an innovation. This is the convergence agricultural revolution and cutting-edge agricultural AI technology that the government is talking about now. This is the first technology developed in the world. We have developed and perfected primitive agricultural technology ourselves for 29 years and have acquired manufacturing and cultivation patents, system patents, trademark patents, and intellectual patents, and have been recognized for our excellent technology. We have the most optimized systems and facilities to grow ginseng well, and because the soil is not contaminated with heavy metals, we produce products that are as harmless as possible. In addition, since ginseng is grown 365 days a year, we are confident that the AI KDS farming method itself is the best cutting-edge agricultural revolution, including increasing farm income, creating jobs, and advancing into overseas markets.
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