The Yanmar Group's Approach to Sustainable Agriculture
The environment for agriculture is greatly changing, not only in Japan but all over the world. The global population is expected to reach 9 billion in 2050, meaning an ever-increasing demand for food. This increasing demand for more food must be met by a small number of growers, while securing more agricultural land is becoming difficult. In order for agriculture to remain a sustainable industry, we have started to take action to transform agriculture into a food value chain.
Up until now, the Yanmar Group has focused on increasing agricultural productivity, reducing labor and raising efficiency through machinery. We also focused on recycling. By making effective use of resources, we minimize the resources that we use. We believe that in the future, in addition to these two paths, economic efficiency will be achieved through increased value in agriculture and agricultural produce.
This means providing food production with high productivity, producing and supplying safe, secure foods, meeting diversifying food needs, harmonizing with the global environment, and securing economic efficiency for the producers supporting all these. In order for us to achieve these, we need to support the entire food value chain, from farm management planning to soil improvements, raising seedlings, transplanting, harvesting, and securing sales routes; this is the shift to a food value chain with agriculture as an attractive industry.
Five Key Actions in the Food Value Chain
Farm Management Using Agricultural ICT Systems
Efficient production is a must in order to realize better economic efficiency in agriculture. To give an example, up until now farms were managed with the extensive experience and intuition of veteran farmers. But, with bigger farms and consequently more things requiring management, the complexity of the work involved was a problem.
Farm management utilizing information communications technology (ICT) is accordingly gaining increased attention. The Yanmar Group is supporting farm management with integrated control (automated recording) with personal computers and networks, based on sensor network information (e.g. remote sensing that visualizes the growth status in the fields), operating information from agricultural machinery equipped with SmartAssist, and field work records.
Greater production and management efficiency makes possible improved added value for agriculture and crops, such as expanded farm scale, better crop quality, and branding.
Research and Development of Robotic Agricultural Machinery
Japanese agriculture is beset by aging farmers and a decreasing pool of labor. The agricultural working population in 2015 was approximately 20 million, an approximately 37.5% reduction from just ten years ago.* This situation has spurred Yanmar to work on the research and development of Robot Tractors, able to produce bigger crops with less manpower, and making it possible for women, younger farmers and anyone in general to achieve the same work as veteran farmers.
There are three stages in the path from manned to unmanned in automated farming with robots. Yanmar is currently working on R&D and demonstration testing of accompanying Robot Tractors where a driverless tractor is operated while the use oversees it. Demonstration testing has shown that operating an accompanying Robot Tractor cuts 48% of the work of operating an ordinary human-driven tractor.
Yanmar continues to work on developing technology to detect people and obstacles to ensure safety, accelerating its effort to turn this into a commercially viable product.
- *2015 Agriculture and Forestry Census, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries