Japan to open robot farm in tsunami disaster zone
A futuristic farm with robot operators is to open in Japan on land swamped by the March 11 tsunami as part of an experimental government project.
The project, masterminded by the Ministry of Agriculture, will involve unmanned tractors working the fields of the farm on a disaster zone site spanning 600 acres.
Robots will then box produce grown on the farm, including rice, wheat, soybeans, fruit and vegetables as part of the “Dream Project” scheme, according to the Nikkei.
The growth of crops will also be boosted by recycled carbon dioxide generated by the operation of the machinery in a bid to reduce reliance on chemical fertilisers.
An expanse of farmland in Miyagi prefecture, northeast Japan, which was flooded in last year’s tsunami, has been earmarked by the government for the project.
On-site research is expected to begin later this year, with a forecast government investment of £33 million (four billion yen) over the next six years, according to ministry officials.
Miyagi was one of Japan’s three worst hit prefectures in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which left more than 19,000 dead or missing and triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis in decades.
Farming was hit particularly hard by the disaster, with tsunami water leaving soil laden with salt and oil deposits, as well as radiation contamination as a result of the leaking Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
More than 59,000 acres of once fertile farmland were damaged as a result of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear fallout, with the agricultural industry still struggling to recover.
The government is hoping to bolster the new robot farm project by inviting leading Japanese technology companies, including Panasonic, Fujitsu and Hitachi, to become involved.
"We hope the project will help not only support farmers in the disaster-hit regions but also revive the entire nation’s agriculture," said a spokesman for the agriculture ministry.