Since XAG launched its R150 unmanned ground vehicle onto the Japanese market this June, the all-electric robot has been trialled for crop spraying and irrigation in apple, grape, watermelon, and citrus orchards.
In Japan’s Yamagata Prefecture, one of the four main production areas of the premium grape variety called Shine Muscat, farmers have tested the XAG R150 farm robot in their vineyards. The autonomous robot can spray grape vines bottom-up.
The large, seedless Japanese “Shine Muscat” grapes are widely exported to other Asian countries since 2007. While Japan devotes 1,200 hectares to cultivate these green premium grapes, the growing shortage of labour in rural areas present challenges to meet the export demand.
Controlled by a mobile app, XAG says its R150 can precisely spray on the crop and ward off pest insects or diseases. This, says XAG, can not only alleviate labour shortage, but also prevents farm workers having to bend over constantly. “It’s like a new type of cure to my back pain, I suppose,” a Japanese vineyard farmer who watched the demo said.
In Obanazawa, another city of Yamagata Prefecture, XAG R150 was used for watering melon crops in a field demonstration. As the self-driving robot moves forward, water is applied precisely using the JetSprayer system.
The robot is able to follow a pre-set route on farm to help fruit growers effectively spray crops and water the field, which is to reduce the use of pesticides and save water. Watermelons need precision irrigation during their life cycle, and traditionally drip tapes are deployed in the field to secure water supply. However, most melon fields have bumpy terrains and long ridges, making it difficult and time-consuming for farmers to apply and retrieve those tapes regularly. Field robots could serve as an alternative here.
Japan aims to increase agricultural exports to 2 trillion yen in 2025, followed by 5 trillion yen in 2030. The Japanese government is actively supporting smart farming technologies through new laws and regulations. XAG says growers in Japan can expect an increase in the availability of lightweight field robots to help them grow high-quality fruits with less inputs.