Could Robots Be the Solution to Japan’s Aging Farmer Population?

As aging farmers retire without successors, officials must determine a way to meet the increasing demand for food

One proposed idea is to replace retiring growers with autonomous tractors and backpack-carried robots. 

Looks like lettuce-harvesting robots are only the beginning for robot-powered agriculture in Japan.

Faced with an aging population of farmers retiring without successors — the average age of Japanese farmers is now 67 — the country must determine a way to meet the increasing demand for food. Agriculture Minister Hiroshi Moriyama has outlined an idea for replacing retiring growers with Japanese-made autonomous tractors and backpack-carried robots, reports Bloomberg.

Japan plans to spend four billion yen ($36 million USD) this year to move towards farm automation and develop 20 different types of robots. “There are no other options for farmers but to rely on technologies developed by companies if they want to raise productivity while they are graying,” said Makiko Tsugata, senior analyst at Mizuho Securities Co. in Tokyo. “The government should help them adopt new technologies.”

Kubota Korp., the largest maker of agricultural machinery in Japan, has developed a prototype autonomous tractor to be used in rice paddies. It is equipped with a global positioning system and cultivates fields and fertilizes after checking soil conditions. The company is also developing a “suit-like device” that is put on like a backpack to help farmers harvest and carry crops.

Takaki Shigemoto, analyst at JSC Corp., says, “Applying new technologies to farming will boost the appeal of agriculture to younger people and help increase their participation in the sector.”


Check out our story on how a California vineyard harnesses the power of drones.