Japan : "ZERO AGRI" steps up to reform agriculture.

In Japan, the number of farmers dropped from 2.56 million in 1995 to 2.06 million in 2010. However, the average age of Japanese farmers continues to rise, reaching 66 years of age in 2016. 

Old farmers are obliged to abandon their job and their land, and the abandoned land is causing serious problems today. In addition, farming revenue dropped to JPY2.941 billion in 2013 from JPY4.930 billion in 1992.

In June 2016, the government adopted a new policy entitled “Japan renaissance strategy 2016” to actively promote agriculture, fishery and forestry and increase the export of food products. To develop the sector, it intends to call on artificial intelligence (AI) and information communication technology (ICT).

In February 2018, Routreck Networks won the Award presented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fishery and Forestry at the Japan Venture Grand Prix, organised by Japan Open Innovation Council as part of NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization). This award is made to entrepreneurs and venture companies who create new business activities that have an impact on Japanese society. Routreck Networks developed “ZERO AGRI”, a land supervision system using AI.

ZERO AGRI uses cloud storage technology to aggregate data sent by sensors installed in greenhouses, before analysing them. This system measures the appropriate supply of irrigation and fertigation using the cropping algorithm stored in the Cloud, and dispenses it automatically. This new technology is a modern adaptation of another technique dating back more than 50 years: the use of dripping irrigation lines. The system saves water and strengthens plant roots.

To produce the algorithm, they adopted data aggregated in the Kurokawa farm partnered by the University of Meiji. The right dose was difficult to measure and depended on the experience of each farmer. 

This system will deliver unprecedented benefits to farmers. According to the firm’s estimates, it promises a 90% saving in working time and a 50% reduction in water and manure, while also helping to reduce water table pollution. In addition, it generates a 30% increase in farming revenue.

The motto of ZERO AGRI is “Holidays for farmers!” This system could transform the negative image of farming, symbolised by long working days and low revenue. The company is targeting solutions for drought in Asia and environmental pollution caused by excessive manuring.
Furthermore, the company is also working to lift psychological barriers of farmers who are unfamiliar with computer equipment, by developing a user-friendly interface.

Source: Smart Agri (web magazine) , M. Masahiko ONO (journalist), 26 April 2018