As the global population continues to grow and the effects of climate change impacts our food sources, it has become crucial for forward-thinkers to better understand more efficient ways to feed people. Of course, when you think of a practice that is the cornerstone of efficiency, you could easily go no further that lean manufacturing and the Toyota Production System (TPS). These principles and practices have been well established and proven to be effective across all industries.
So what about agriculture and lean farming? For almost a decade, a farmer in northern Indiana embraced the principles of the TPS and apply them to lean farming. The farmer is Ben Hartman and his techniques have revolutionized farming. Through the practice of lean farming, Hartman has significantly cut his worked hours, shrunk the size of his farm and increased his income. Understanding that the first Toyota workers were previously rice farmers, Hartman knew he was on to something special. They brought the practices of the rice field onto the factory floor of Toyota. Japanese rice farmers were known to be very efficient in their processes. They had to redesign their farms to feed a growing Japanese population while optimally utilizing precious land that was available. You could easily say this was the perfect example of lean farming. Hartman understood kaizen and the principle that there is no perfect system or final solution, just continuous improvement. They did not seek to grow the perfect tomato. Instead, they have sought to cut more and more waste every year from production and align more and more closely with customer’s expectations. Hartman has shrunk the size of his operation, and every time he has gotten smaller, his profits have significantly increased.