Internet Initiative Japan Inc. (IIJ) and Sumitomo Corporation announced that the two companies have concluded a partnership agreement for a cooperative project on market surveys, product development, manufacturing, and commercialization related to advanced agriculture, with the goal of sparking innovation both in Japan and elsewhere.
Japan’s agricultural workforce has continued to advance in age, with more than 60% over the age of 65. As there are fewer people in the next generation to carry on agricultural work and fewer people entering the field every year, its production technologies and know-how face extinction. Against this labor-shortage backdrop, arable land continues to be consolidated and agricultural corporations have become enormous, leading to an underlying trend of growth in the amount of land under management per managing entity.
For that reason, initiatives need to leverage robotics, drone technologies, and ICT to achieve major improvements in agricultural efficiency, in the form of high-quality production and less demanding energy and labor requirements. In reality, however, many production sites have not yet developed an environmental infrastructure. For example, when it comes to water management in wet rice fields, in addition to a large amount of time being spent every day to check water levels, detailed responses are needed in order to be able to maintain the quality and harvest volume of the crop, but the hardware involved is not very advanced at the moment.
Through this partnership, IIJ and Sumitomo Corporation will advance initiatives related to product development, manufacturing, and sales that will help visualize efficiency and know-how in agricultural work, especially for rice, wheat, soybeans, and sugar cane. The companies plan to begin by moving forward with communications technologies using LPWAs like LoRaWAN (*1) and with various sensors. The goal is to commercialize communications services that are affordable and easy for agricultural producers to use within Japan Agricultural Cooperatives Miyagi Tome (Tome City, Miyagi Prefecture), with which Sumitomo Corporation has announced a strategic partnership (*2).
IIJ is working on technology development for a variety of venues, ranging from the production site to the household, based on the elemental technologies required to connect everything—including the networks, clouds, and device gateways—that makes up IoT systems, and to ensure the security of the systems.
Through this partnership, the two companies will promote the development of new technologies, products, and services in the pursuit of increased efficiency in agriculture and benefits to producers, and they will continue to accelerate their initiatives for sustaining and developing agriculture in Japan and elsewhere into the future.
* 1. LPWA (Low Power Wide Area): A wireless communications technology characterized by low power consumption and long-distance capabilities suitable for IoT/M2M(Machine to Machine). LoRaWAN is a wireless communications protocol that is a type of LPWA.
* 2. “Strategic Partnership on Advanced Agriculture in the District Covered by Japan Agricultural Cooperatives Miyagi Tome”