Evaluation and Expectation on Hokkaido University’s Smart Agriculture. Contribution: Kayoko YAMAMOTO, editorial writer, the Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun. Yamamoto wrote an article about the center in February 2020.
YAMAMOTO Kayoko, Editorial Writer and Editorial Board Member, Science and Technology Division, The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun
After graduating from the Faculty of Science at Ochanomizu University and completing the Interdisciplinary Graduate School of Science and Engineering at Tokyo Institute of Technology, Ms. Yamamoto joined the Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun in 1990. Having covered university-industry-academia collaboration since 2003, she entered Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology with the theme of industry-academia-government collaboration and obtained a doctorate (academic). She is permanently stationed in the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Press Club.
As a journalist specializing in university-industry-academia collaboration, I have been covering universities for nearly 20 years. University reform in the midst of tight national finances requires both highlighting the aspects of new activities to public and a solid policy to promote such activities at the same time, based on a common understanding of the characteristics and directions of the university.
The smart agriculture of Hokkaido University, which I covered earlier, is a good example. A new research/education facility for smart agriculture that makes heavy use of robots, large amounts of data (big data) and the Internet of Things (IoT) is planned to open in FY 2022. 4K images of crop diseases and pests are taken with an unmanned robotic agricultural machine, transmitted without delay by 5th generation communication (5G) and analyzed by artificial intelligence (AI). Pesticides and fertilizers are sprinkled with a robotic agricultural machine. Hearing about these plans, I wrote an article with excitement.
Meanwhile, what I felt to be sensible is that the new two-story facility with a total floor area of 3,000 m2 will be a “consolidation” of four buildings to be demolished, including small, old experimental buildings. Although it will be a space for researchers from the Field Science Center for Northern Biosphere and the School of Agriculture as well as engineering and information fields, the area of the new building is planned to be about 80% of the total area of the conventional buildings. The space used by only few researchers will be reduced, and space efficiency will be promoted through shared use to curb maintenance costs. I was impressed that it is a sustainable initiative that values public funds and various resources.
In addition, Hokkaido University ranked first overall in Japan in THE University Impact Rankings 2020 (see page 3). Although individual departments are highly independent at large-scale universities and their activities tend to be disjointed, Hokkaido University’s awareness as a whole of sustainability is a strength. I hope it will be cherished in the future.
Cultural assets and cutting-edge technology on the farms of Hokkaido University
AIKOH Tetsuya, Advisor to the President (Executive Office for Campus and Environment Planning), Associate Professor, Research Faculty of Agriculture
We would like to address of thanks to Ms, Yamamoto for her valuable opinions and compliments.
On the north side of the campus, there is the Model Barn, a group of buildings designated as an Important Cultural Property. Dr. Clark ordered the construction as a model for the modernization of Japanese agriculture. Our campus and farms have developed as a place to research the latest science and technology while cherishing the aged, traditional facilities.
Agriculture has many roles to play in a sustainable society. Meanwhile, the number of farmers is decreasing, and the population is aging, and underuse of Satoyama landscape, village-vicinity mountains is one of the causes of animal damage and biodiversity deterioration. Smart agricultural technology is expected to develop in various perspective. The farms of Hokkaido University, which have long conveyed the cutting edge of Japanese agriculture, will confront the various issues to be solved, as well as new initiatives to mark a new history.