The adoption of smart agriculture in Japan is transforming the agricultural industry by leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to automate labor-intensive tasks. This technological advancement is expected to alleviate severe manpower shortages and increase efficiency in the sector. Large-scale greenhouse farmers are at the forefront of this revolution, utilizing AI-equipped robots developed by venture businesses to cultivate and harvest agricultural products.
The Role of AI Robots
In a pioneering move, a farm in Hanyu, Saitama Prefecture, has deployed a four-wheeled AI robot to harvest cucumbers. Developed by agricultural startup Agrist Inc., the robot uses a camera and AI algorithms to determine the optimal time for harvesting. It captures images of the cucumbers, identifies the ripe ones, and delicately cuts them off the stems before placing them in a case. This innovative solution not only increases efficiency but also minimizes the risk of damage to the crops.
Expansion of AI Technology
The success of Agrist Inc.’s robot has opened the doors for other farms to adopt similar systems. Inaho Inc., an agricultural venture company in Kamakura, has leased an AI-equipped robot to a farm in the Netherlands. This robot specializes in automatically picking ripe cherry tomatoes, utilizing AI image analysis to select the fruits and employing its arm to harvest them. While developing robots capable of handling the entire harvesting process remains costly, this technology provides significant support to farms facing labor shortages.
Exporting Smart Agriculture
Inaho Inc. aims to export its smart agriculture technology globally, starting with the Netherlands, known for its robust agrifood sector. By providing efficient solutions for tomato harvesting, Inaho Inc. hopes to establish itself as a leading provider of AI-driven agricultural technology. The company is also developing robots for harvesting other crops, such as asparagus, with plans to lease them to farmers by fiscal year 2025.
The Future of Smart Agriculture
According to Takanori Fukao, a professor of robotics at the University of Tokyo, Japan’s adoption of harvesting robots is just the beginning. While greenhouse cultivation has been the primary focus thus far, the integration of AI robots into open-field cultivation is expected to increase in the future. Farms may need to be redesigned to accommodate the effective placement of crops to fully leverage the potential of robots.
1. How does AI technology benefit agriculture?
AI technology in agriculture automates labor-intensive tasks, reducing the dependency on human labor and alleviating manpower shortages. It improves efficiency, accuracy, and productivity in various agricultural processes.
2. Can AI robots replace human farmers completely?
While AI robots can handle specific tasks in agriculture, completely replacing human farmers is unlikely. Human expertise is still critical in planning, decision-making, and managing complex agricultural systems.
3. Are there any drawbacks to using AI robots in agriculture?
Development and implementation costs of AI robots can be a significant initial investment for farmers. Additionally, certain crop-specific or environment-specific challenges may require customized solutions, making widespread adoption more challenging.