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Japan: The future is farm technology

Next time you are in the bustling Ota market in Tokyo, you might find Mandarin Oranges sweet beyond expectations and a delight to savour. The rich taste is not because of the use of biotech seeds but simple sensors in the orchards.

The sensors inform farmers when to reduce water supply so that the trees work harder to absorb the water from the soil, thus increasing the sugar content in the oranges. The Mandarin along with other citrus trees produce the best fruit when it is sunny and the soil is dry.

With the average age of the Japanese farmer being 67 years, technology giants such as Fujitsu are offering technology services to the farmer community based on sensors, historical weather data, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things. Farmers get real-time alerts on their mobiles with actionable inputs.

In an era dominated by cheap Chinese electronic goods, Japanese tech firms see agriculture technology services as the next big opportunity in the local and international markets. Fujitsu is planning to bring these technologies to the Indian and APAC markets.

Fujitsu’s Chief Technology Officer (Europe, Middle East, India and Africa), Joseph Reger speaking to BusinessLine at the recently concluded Fujitsu Forum, said agriculture is about human and animal actions in the field, which produces large data and information, “Mere collection of information will not yield results. But if you add historical weather data, local agricultural practices, feed from geo-satellites providing high-resolution pictures, then the result is higher crop yields,” he said.

Takeshi Wakabayashi, Senior Director of Fujitsu Ltd, said boosting agriculture production is one of the pillars of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policy.

Today, the value of agriculture production is about 1 trillion yen ($8 billion), which the Abe administration is targeting to increase to 10 trillion yen ($80 billion) by 2020, he said.

With smart Fujitsu devices, farmers are leveraging data and increasing production of crops such as cabbage by 30 per cent. Earlier, farming decisions based on the farmer’s hunch led to 20 to 30 per cent crop losses, Wakabayashi said.


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