From Iwata City to the World--Creating a New Smart Agriculture Industry to Boost the Development of Local Communities

[Fujitsu Forum 2016 Event Report]

Fujitsu Forum Tokyo 2016, Fujitsu's largest event, was held for two days on May 19 and 20 at the Tokyo International Forum in Yurakucho, Tokyo. On May 20, Mr. Osamu Watanabe, Mayor of Iwata City, Shizuoka Prefecture, gave a presentation in a seminar titled "From Iwata City to the World--Creating a New Smart Agriculture Industry to Boost the Development of Local Communities." This was followed by a panel session with Ms. Hidemi Masuda, Senior Managing Director of Masuda Seed Co., Ltd., and Mitsutoshi Hirono, Corporate Executive Officer and SVP of Fujitsu Ltd.

Iwata City, Masuda Seed, and Fujitsu Collaborating in Smart Agriculture Project

At the opening of the seminar, Mr. Watanabe gave an overview of Iwata city. "Iwata City used to boast almost the same value of manufactured goods shipments as the adjacent Hamamatsu City. However, this value drastically dropped due to the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 and the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. We are still working hard to get out of this difficult situation," he said.

To solve these problems, Mr. Watanabe frequently had meetings with all the city employees of Iwata City, through which he realized that the field of agriculture still has room for growth and has the potential to improve the current situation. "When considering the agriculture industry, it is difficult to 'protect agriculture, agricultural land, and farmers' in a consistent way. So the Iwata City government needs to serve as an intermediary between private companies, farmers, and citizens," he said.

The Smart Agriculture Project was launched based on this concept. This initiative aims to achieve regional development based on agriculture through co-creation between ORIX Corporation, Masuda Seed Co., Ltd., and Fujitsu Limited.

The three companies established Smart Agriculture Iwata Co., Ltd. in Iwata City, Shizuoka Prefecture, in April 2016 and have worked on specific initiatives since. Mr. Watanabe concluded his presentation, emphasizing, "Many municipalities are exploring local possibilities, trying to find businesses that can grow into key industries. We also want to achieve success with the Iwata Smart Agriculture Project, a new agriculture model, without losing our spirit as pioneers."

Business model of the Smart Agriculture Project

Spreading the Benefits of Japanese Vegetables

In the second part, Mr. Watanabe was joined by Ms. Masuda, Senior Managing Director of Masuda Seed and Mr. Hirono, Corporate Executive Officer and SVP of Fujitsu for the panel session.

Hirono, who served as the moderator, informed the audience that Smart Agriculture Iwata produces kale, tomatoes, and bell peppers specifically. He said that kale is being cultivated as the first vegetable to be launched under the project. He selected kale because "Masuda Seed's strength lies in crops that belong in the Brassicaceae family and it is rare to find kale that can be eaten fresh, so I believe this plant will gain popularity in the future."

Cultivation of kale that can be eaten fresh

The Smart Agriculture Project in Iwata City aims to develop agriculture as the "sixth industry" by combining the primary, secondary and tertiary industries, which includes sowing seeds, raising seedlings, as well as growing, processing and shipping vegetables. This project is characterized by the participation of the local government and its vision to develop an ecosystem going forward by adding other industries such as electricity, logistics, and finance.

Mr. Watanabe stated with confidence about the current situation and future prospects of the Smart Agriculture Project. "In order to educate the residents on agriculture, municipal employees walk around the region and hold meetings to explain the details to farmers and citizens. I'm sure that everyone will come to see the value of the project within the next five to ten years."

Next, Mr. Hirono introduced Fujitsu's activities. Fujitsu has been providing the food and agriculture cloud service Akisai for 10 years, but the company has not stopped at providing a system, it is also producing low-potassium lettuce in a special clean room at its former plant site in Aizu-Wakamatsu.

Regarding the newly-started cultivation of kale, Ms. Masuda stated, "Environmental control is very important and the key lies in creating a mechanism to share places for growing kale." She continued, "This year's Fujitsu Forum gave us an opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of Japanese vegetables. There are still many delicious and rare vegetables in Japan that are not well-known and we would like to share them with the world in the future."

In conclusion, Mr. Watanabe said, "If this Smart Agriculture Project goes well, it will be a new success model. We hope that this will in turn help to instill pride and confidence in as many citizens in Iwata City as possible. We will continue to push forward, believing in our success and the potential of Iwata City."

  • Osamu WatanabeMayor of Iwata City,
    Shizuoka Prefecture

  • Hidemi MasudaSenior Managing Director
    Masuda Seed Co., Ltd.

  • Mitsutoshi HironoCorporate Executive Officer, SVP
    Fujitsu Limited

Introducing Fujitsu's Food and Agriculture Solutions

We gave an overview of the Smart Agriculture Project at the exhibition hall. In addition to the Smart Agriculture Project in Iwata City introduced at the seminar, Fujitsu also presented a variety of solutions for the food and agriculture industry, including the SaaS-based agriculture cloud Akisai.

Solution for Monitoring Farm Work

Mannequin wearing a vital sign sensing band on the wrist

A mannequin dressed like an agriculture worker was placed close to the entrance of the exhibition zone. The system monitors the heat stress in the worker's environment to ensure their safety based on the temperature, humidity, active movement, pulse readings, and other information measured by a sensor mounted onto the vital sign sensing band worn by the worker.

Smart Agriculture Iwata Co., Ltd.

Smart Agriculture Iwata: a model showing how the facility will look upon completion

Smart Agriculture Iwata Co., Ltd. was established in April 2016 by the three companies of Fujitsu, ORIX, and Masuda Seed with a view to promote regional development through agriculture. This project aims to co-create a new business model for the entire food and agriculture value chain to develop strong agriculture by integrating the knowledge of partner companies and organizations across different types and categories of businesses and utilizing the expertise of the three companies. A kale greenhouse with soil culture has been completed and other facilities are currently under construction.

Kale, bell peppers, and tomatoes will be harvested

The project will grow kale, which is often included in green juice, for direct consumption and bell peppers, which are still produced in small quantities in Japan. There are also plans to grow tomatoes for which a processing plant will be built as well.

SaaS-based Agriculture Cloud Akisai

Fujitsu's agriculture cloud, Akisai, is a system that can be used to create a visual representation of the agricultural work. In the future, by linking Akisai with dashboard screens as shown in the photos below, we can identify the area where problems and diseases occur, as highlighted in red in the center (photo on the right). With this, measures can be taken quickly to minimize the damage and prevent it from spreading to surrounding areas.

Instantly displays the problematic area

Smartphone screen of Akisai

In addition, Akisai makes it possible to record on-site agricultural work from smartphones. The screen is easy to navigate, even for older farmers who may not be accustomed to using smartphones.

Safety Management System for Agriculture Workers

Remote safety check

Fujitsu also showcased a safety management system for agriculture workers using IoT, which remotely monitors whether or not workers are exposed to heat stress.