Drone Japan unveils drone-based field data analysis service for improved rice farming


This guest post is authored by Sakahito Sado of Wata-ame in Tokyo. Wata-ame offers user growth consulting service for game and web service developers.

Image credit: Drone Japan
Image credit: Drone Japan

See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based Drone Japan last week unveiled the concept of DJ Agri-service which enables efficient and low-cost rice farming that utilizes drones. By conjoining efforts of experts in different fields ranging from hardware and software to data analysis and agriculture, this service was formed to realize “Precision Farming” which supports agrochemical-free farming techniques while significantly lowering production costs through use of image analysis and visualization of crop-growing conditions by applying drone-based remote sensing.

Automatically acquiring agricultural core data such as crop-growing conditions, it provides reporting service for farmers using analysis from experts. One of the service’s strengths is the accuracy of these agricultural data utilizing specialized sensors, spectral cameras and autonomous flight technologies, which could not be acquired through conventional methods.

Kiichiro Katsumata, CEO of Drone Japan

The experts involved in this project include Yutaka Kaidu (Associate Professor, Laboratory of Biological and Mechanical Engineering, The University of Tokyo) and Guo Wei (Master’s program, same as above) in charge of data processing, Randy Mackay (Japan Drones; supporting software development using open source code for drone hardware developers) in charge of operating drones, and Noriyuki Ichikawa (Ichikawa Farm in Asahikawa, Hokkaido).

The service usage fee is 4,500 yen (about $43) minimum per hectare for each use during the cultivation period, inclusive of drone and camera rental, data sensing and data analysis. The firm plans to commence service from April of 2017.

Analyzing images photographed by drone

The market size for the drone industry is expected to grow to 100 billion yen (about $960 million) by 2020, and agriculture is estimated to account for half of this figure.

In the press briefing, CEO of Drone Japan Kiichiro Katsumata revealed the launch of the service, as well as the start of sales as to value-added rice utilizing drones, in addition to provision of data to agricultural app developers; the company aims to attain sales of 3 billion yen (about $29 million) by 2020.

Drone Rice

Kotaro Chiba, known for the establishment of the Research Consortium for Co-Creation of Drone Collaborative Society, was also involved in this service as an angel investor and commented as follows:

I feel that technology like those used in drones is going to solve problems for the primary industries.

By focusing on rice cultivation from among the wide-ranging agricultural industry, Drone Japan aims to solve problems related to domestic rice farming by leveraging technologies, not to mention promoting development of Japanese drone agriculture on a global scale.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy