FB Pixel no script

From agriculture to medicine, rural Japan goes high-tech to get by | KASIA

With a tap of a smartphone screen, an automated mower rumbles across the field. The machine moves on its own, doing the heavy lifting of preparing farmland for aging workers.

The machine, developed by Shinano Robotics Innovations, connects to Japan’s Michibiki global positioning satellite system so it stays within 3 centimeters of the designated route. The company completed three years of testing in March.

Shinano Robotics, based in Shinano City, Nagano Prefecture, is among growing ranks of companies testing new technologies to help alleviate labor shortages facing rural communities across the country. .

“First, people control mowers in fields and rice paddies,” said Tetsuya Akahori, head of Shinano Robotics. “The program learns the paths taken and the machine runs automatically when turned on from the second time.”

The company plans to start supplying the robotic mower via a subscription service as early as 2024. It foresees demand from places where this work is labor intensive.

On the farms where the tests took place, mowing done with conventional machines requires about 3.7 million JPY (26,900 USD) per year in labor and other costs. Self-driving mowers should reduce that amount to around JPY 600,000 ($4,360).

Automated technology could be applied to tractors and other agricultural equipment. In Japan, the average age of farmers is around 68, according to government statistics, and 90% of them are 65 or older.

Tokyo-based TIS is developing a robot to deliver groceries to elderly people in depopulated areas. Guided by GPS and laser, it moves at 3 kilometers per hour.

TIS field-tested the robot in Aizuwakamatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture. The elderly people ordered items from a grocery store 20km away via a tablet, with the items being dispatched to a public room to be transferred to the robot. The robot traveled the last 1-2 km to the participants’ homes.

In November, TIS also began testing the robot for garbage collection and transporting agricultural products.

“We expect to establish the technological feasibility of commercialization in 2024 or 2025,” said a TIS representative. The company plans to charge JPY 1,000-1,500 ($7-10) per grocery run.

This type of rural innovation is also found in telemedicine. In March 2021, Microsoft Japan partnered with two hospitals in Nagasaki Prefecture to launch the country’s first remote care field trial for rheumatoid arthritis patients.

One of the hospitals, Goto Central Hospital, is on a remote island. It collected 3D images of patients’ hands using Microsoft sensors and sent the data to Nagasaki University Hospital, more than 100 km away.

Specialists from Nagasaki University Hospital viewed the images through headphones and offered their diagnoses. Goto Central Hospital does not have arthritis specialists, so this setup has made it easier for residents of the island to access care.

“I hope that later we will pick up a patient’s facial expressions and conversation using artificial intelligence and do pain analysis,” said Kunihiro Ohyama, healthcare industry manager. healthcare at Microsoft.

Rural Japan is a harbinger of the challenges that graying and declining populations will pose to the rest of the country. It is precisely for this reason that Shinano Robotics was established in a rural town.

“I thought we would be able to effectively capture the challenges of outlying areas if we did a business in Shinano,” Akahori said. Technology developed in the backcountry can be reused in the big city to make workers more productive.

This article was first published on Nikkei Asia. It has been republished here as part of 36Kr’s ongoing partnership with Nikkei.

#agriculture #medicine #rural #Japan #hightech #KASIA

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *