Automatic cabbage harvester using advanced technology being developed in Shikaoi

As the scale of farmland in Tokachi increases and the shortage of labor continues, labor saving measures are the key to sustainability. The use of smart agriculture based on advanced technology is vital in cultivating profitable crops while maintaining an appropriate crop rotation system with limited manpower.

 In early October, a harvesting machine rumbled along in a cabbage field in the town of Shikaoi. Upon further inspection, it was clear that the driver’s seat was unmanned but the steering wheel was turning left and right by itself, and the machine was harvesting cabbages for processing.

 The machine was an automatic cabbage harvester equipped with artificial intelligence (AI), being developed by the Shikaoi Town Agricultural Cooperative and the University of Tokyo, along with agricultural machinery manufacturers and the like, with the aim of implementing it in the next fiscal year. The AI system recognizes the location of the cabbages based on images taken by multiple cameras mounted on the harvester. When the large container loaded on the harvester becomes full of harvested cabbages, a transporter approaches and is linked to the harvester utilizing a satellite-based positioning system (GPS). The container is then automatically transferred to the transporter via rails.

 If this technology is put to practical use, it will enable one or two people to do the work that would usually require four to seven people. Since the cabbage harvesting season coincides with the harvest of other crops, the Shikaoi Agricultural Cooperative recruited students from Tokyo to work part time and, in some cases, hired as many as 50 during the peak season.

 According to the cooperative, “In addition to saving agricultural labor, the system will also help increase income from farming, enabling the farmers to dream.”

The automatic cabbage harvester harvests a cabbage every 2 seconds or so

Location

Shikaoi Town

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