Agri-Tech Primed for Expansion in Japan

Big Changes are Being Made to Improve Farming Throughout the Japanese Countryside

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The Agri-Tech Market is Set for Extensive Growth

With global population steadily rising, the demands for food will continue to grow so agricultural production will need to find a way to keep up.

Japan’s farming industry has been in steady decline since the 1970s, when the country had as many as 5.5 million households involved in agriculture. By 2015, this figure had dropped to 1.3 million.

These days, farming in Japan is dominated by the elderly, with most farmers over the age of 65. And, with younger people moving to urban areas for work, there is no one to take over the farms when these farmers die. So, the country is faced with having to find new ways to operate to make up for the loss of labor, and to help reduce the need for large food imports to make up the production deficit.

At present, agriculture production in Japan is valued at around 1 trillion yen but the Japanese government plans to increase production to 10 trillion yen by 2020, making food self-sufficiency a major agricultural policy.

A new generation of technology is needed to bridge the widening gap between production and demand

Plans for Japan to Reach its Agricultural Goals

A new generation of technology is needed to bridge the widening gap between production and demand. Innovations such as plant factories, robotic automation and IT systems are ideas being bandied about to replace the need for so much human power.

Agri-tech businesses will have to come up with a variety of products and services to meet industry requirements. The new technology must increase productivity, lower production costs, use fewer resources such as water, energy and pesticides, while also improving the quality and availability of farming produce.

Japan’s uncultivated land accounted for 420,000 hectares in 2015 but the government set about encouraging larger-scale agriculture businesses to play a significant role in revitalizing Japan’s farming industry.

So far, company-run farms have jumped from 8,700 in to 2005 to 20,800 in 2016. This increase has even seen the number of younger people in the business slowly rise so Japan is heading in the right direction with regards to reducing its reliance on imports.

How Can Technology Improve Productivity?

With the help of agricultural technology, a typical farm scenario could involve a driverless tractor in a field using a global positioning system (GPS), both synchronised to automate cultivation and fertilisation after monitoring the soil conditions.

A combination of high-resolution drone images, historical weather data from geo-satellites and sensors in the field would generate real-time alerts on mobile devices and inform farmers when to irrigate crops or alert them to any potential problems on their land.

Veteran farmers could also share their knowledge, experience and techniques with new farmers via the web so that all that valuable information is not lost.

There are many ways that technology can be used to solve shortages in farm labor and agricultural production. Right now, we are just seeing the beginnings of this new agri-tech revolution – let’s see where it will lead us in the future.

Today’s “otsumami” – a bite size snack:

The development of agricultural technology will not only improve farming output and efficiency, but it will also create new business opportunities for budding entrepreneurs.

What do you think?


Written by Catherine McGuinness

Writer and journalist with a love for all things Japan.

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