WUR helps modernise the Japanese agricultural sector

December 20, 2022

The future of Japanese agriculture is at stake. The average age of farmers is 67, there is hardly any succession, and the companies still produce in a traditional way. At the initiative of the Business Unit Greenhouse Horticulture and Flower Bulbs of Wageningen University & Research, Dutch and Japanese knowledge institutions and companies are working on modernising agriculture through the use of data, sensors, and drones. This should also make the profession of farmer more attractive to young people.

Japan is a country that is highly digitized: the most modern techniques are developed and applied. But agriculture is lagging behind. This is mainly due to ageing. Ageing leads to lower efficiency of companies, farmers that stop working and villages that empty out as a result, WUR researcher Rick van de Zedde concluded a few years ago. His fascination for Japan made him decide to investigate whether the Netherlands could contribute to a solution.

A few years ago he organized – with financial support from the Horticulture & Propagation Materials Top Sector – a first project to bring parties together and to jointly look for knowledge questions and possible solutions. That led to the project Transition to a Data-Driven Agriculture (TTADDA).

In TTADDA, both Dutch and Japanese companies and knowledge institutions work together to increase the efficiency of potato cultivation in northern Japan. A breeder and several IT companies are involved and the team are using sensors to collect data – via a WUR data platform – about cultivation. The data is used for making growth models and developing better potato varieties. These new techniques not only improve cultivation, but hopefully also make farming more interesting to younger generations.

TTADDA started just before the corona crisis. As a result, the cooperation between Dutch and Japanese partners largely took place digitally. Last summer, all members of the project group met in real life for the first time, in Japan. The meeting included presentations by various WUR researchers and the Japanese National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO).

The Dutch activities within TTADDA are financed by the Horticulture & Propagation Materials Top Sector, the Japanese activities by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture. 2023 is the last year of TTADDA: then a final symposium will follow and it will be decided what a possible follow-up will look like.