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Focal Point on Food Security in Japan

Japan, a steep, densely packed island that imports more than half its food, faces unique food security challenges. Ongoing population decline and a shift towards white collar jobs means that the average number of farmers is on course for a decline of 50% by 2030, compared with 2005 figures. To add to this, roughly 40% of Japan’s limited farmland is on hilly terrain, and mostly divided into small family-owned farms. To be more self-sufficient, the Japanese government began to fund ‘smart agriculture’ projects in 2014 to promote robotics and information technology that boost productivity. Under this initiative, Japan is developing everything from automated farm machinery, efficient plant breeding, guidelines for food consumption and recycling technologies to export tracking and a large-scale agricultural data sharing platform.

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The Japanese agricultural robotics industry may be strengthened by its navigation of rugged terrain and small farms.

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Using robotics, sensors, big-data simulations, microbes and genomics, Japan is tweaking food supply at every level to boost food security, sustainability and markets.

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By 2022, Japan hopes that robots and a cloud-based market for agricultural data will have reduced work hours by 30% on some farms.

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