Rice growers in Japan are being urged to take up remote crop sensing and airborne variable rate application of fertiliser by FarmEye Company Ltd, a new joint venture between agricultural tractor and equipment manufacturer Yanmar and optics specialist Konica Minolta.
FarmEye is developing an agriculture consulting service that provides drone sensing and image analysis, diagnostics and advice for improving crop performance.
The objective is to improve efficiency and reduce labour input, which Japan’s agriculture ministry has identified as being essential to help combat an almost 40% loss of agricultural workers over the past 10 years. There is also concern that with the average age of farmers continuing to increase, the farming industry is losing experience and know-how.
The 2 partners in FarmEye (not to be confused with the Ireland-based food traceability consultancy) began collaborative research in 2014, which showed the potential for digital crop management technologies to improve yields. Trials showed 14.5% increase in revenues on average for growers of ‘standard’ rice, and 33% for producers of high quality rice.
Konica Minolta’s SPAD series chlorophyll meter has been used for crop analysis and fertiliser management for many years but has only recently been combined with image processing using specialised cameras. This not only allows for measurement of chlorophyll across entire fields but also the digitalisation of soil fertility and crop nitrogen absorption; as an illustration of rice growth conditions, this is something that has not previously been possible with accuracy, says the company.
Yanmar’s principal involvement in agriculture is the manufacture of compact tractors and rice transplanters, tillers and harvesters.