Smart agriculture is increasingly being employed in Japan, arousing expectations that producers will be able to entrust artificial intelligence with more labor-intensive tasks to alleviate severe labor shortages.

Large-scale greenhouse farmers are leading the way, having begun to use AI-equipped robots developed by venture businesses in ways that seem, more or less, to change the future shape of cultivating and harvesting agricultural products. In September, a four-wheeled AI robot slowly rolled through the lush green leaves of a plastic greenhouse at a farm in Hanyu, Saitama Prefecture, eastern Japan, gathering only the ripest cucumbers.

"We were initially afraid that the robot might cut off the cucumber stems, but it moves accurately," said Takeshi Yoshida, head of the farm called Takamiya No Aisai. "We expect a lot of the robot now that labor is in such short supply."

The firm is operated by a subsidiary of Takamiya Co., which manages agricultural greenhouses and other facilities, while the robot was developed by startup Agrist Inc. and uses a camera and AI to determine if it is the right time to harvest crops.