As the population in Japan ages, and more and more people graduate into retirement, there is a growing issue in food production and agriculture. In the last 50 years, the number of farmers in Japan has decreased by only 4.4%, but this loss has significantly impacted the farming industry. The number of cultivated acres in Japan has fallen by 16% from 5.3 million hectares to 4.2 million in the last thirty years, and along with that the food self-sufficiency is dwindling.
The question becomes, how will this problem be solved? Many people are innovating the technology used in farming to alleviate some of the burdens put on farmers. This is called Smart Agriculture. With the introduction of robotics and alternative technologies, the industry is changing. Field work is being performed by robotic arms, plant care is being taken care of by drones. Approximately 50% of the labor-intensive work can be managed by robotics, alleviating a large portion of the stress on farmers.
The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is doing everything it can to promote the use of technology in the field in Japan. Let’s look at three different products they are promoting on their homepage.
The cabbage-harvesting robot in Hokkaido is lifting whole heads of cabbage out of the ground, eliminating the need for someone in the field to pick them. The robot uses AI to detect the cabbage and then places it in a large container attached to the robot. It doesn’t even need a driver to operate the machine!
Next, this is the robotic strawberry picking machine. This machine uses image recognition to determine which strawberries are ready to be picked. It also has the ability to carry large amounts of product.
Additionally, smart agriculture is innovating the way that farmers judge how much water and fertilizers are needed for their crops to succeed. Inexperienced farmers often overestimate the amounts needed, which can occasionally lead to groundwater contamination or another disaster.
Farmers in Japan are adopting techniques developed abroad, like Fertigation, and adapting them to the Japanese climate to improve the use of finite resources. It is an exciting and actively growing industry. Smart Agriculture is changing the landscape of the industry by integrating all aspects of business from farm to fork.
When the farmer has more control over the chain of production, they can access greater profits at every stage of the business. This style of business not only benefits the farmer, but also benefits the consumer. Products can be cheaper with a larger profit for the farmer, especially if overhead is reduced due to a large portion of the labor being done by robots.
There are many exciting innovations happening in agriculture!