“Smart farming,” which utilizes cutting-edge robotics and artificial intelligence, could hold the key to an agricultural resurgence in a nation of graying farmers and a general population reluctant to toil in the soil, according to an article by The Japan News.
Major agricultural machinery makers are already pouring resources into developing new equipment, and the Japanese government is planning experiments to test self-driving tractors and other technologies at about 50 model farms starting next fiscal year.
Building a Better Tractor
A new robotic tractor was unveiled Jan. 15 at a research firm run by the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization, a state research and development institute based in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture. With no one in the driver’s seat, a worker standing off to the side used a tablet computer to make the tractor stop and go. When the tractor reached the edge of the field, it made a rapid U-turn. In no time at all the field was plowed.
The tractor’s motions can be monitored on a screen, which allowed the worker to operate two tractors simultaneously. Kubota Corp. has started test-marketing of a tractor that can plow both wet and dry fields. It uses satellite location data to move automatically at a high level of precision, with only a few centimeters of error.
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“In the future, we will achieve ‘unmanned farming,’ in which AI will comprehensively analyze satellite, meteorological and other data so robot farm machines can operate automatically,” said Yuji Tomiyama, a Kubota managing executive officer.Yanmar Co. and Iseki & Co. are already marketing self-driving tractors.Another area of progress is in the use of small drones.