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5G project launched to help remote inexperienced farmers

  • JAPAN NEWS-YOMIURI / NOV. 16, 2021
                                Sanhei Hattori wears smart glasses as he checks the condition of tomatoes at a greenhouse in Chofu, Tokyo.

    JAPAN NEWS-YOMIURI / NOV. 16, 2021

    Sanhei Hattori wears smart glasses as he checks the condition of tomatoes at a greenhouse in Chofu, Tokyo.

TOKYO >> The Tokyo government and NTT East Corp., a Japanese telecommunications company, have launched a trial project using 5G technology to support inexperienced farmers. With Japan’s agriculture sector suffering a labor shortage, farming experts are able to offer guidance remotely by utilizing high-speed, high-capacity 5G communication.

To showcase the trial, tomatoes harvested by some of the farmers were served in school lunches, and students seemed to enjoy the locally grown produce.

The food was picked from among 350 tomato plants being grown in a 5,400-square-foot greenhouse on the site of an NTT East facility in Chofu, Tokyo.

Last month, Sanhei Hattori, 73, was checking on the tomatoes while wearing a pair of smart glasses.

Footage captured by Hattori’s glasses was viewed in Tachikawa, about 12-1/2 miles away, where a facility is operated by Tokyo’s Development Foundation for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Cultivation experts gave Hattori advice on everything from harvest times to pruning and plant abnormalities.

The project utilizes a local 5G network that is more stable and secure than conventional 5G. The greenhouse is equipped with an antenna, six 360-degree cameras mounted on the ceiling and a camera that can move around the facility, remote-controlled by the foundation.

NTT East launched the project in June.

Until recently, Hattori’s experience with growing vegetables was limited to his home garden. But through the project, he has cultivated tomatoes using his pair of smart glasses to get advice from experts.

“A situation that might be difficult to convey with words can be conveyed with images,” Hattori said. “It’s reassuring to know that I can receive professional guidance at any time.”

Harvested tomatoes were sold at supermarkets and supplied to Wakaba Elementary School, where students learned about the project and ate the tomatoes.

“It was sweet and sour and delicious!” said Takuma Kaji, a 12-year-old student. “I’m amazed that cutting-edge technology is being used to produce food.”

Said a Tokyo official: “The experts can support several farms a day, as they don’t have to visit cultivation sites every time a farmer needs help. We can actively support new farmers and also help existing farmers who want to try new crops.”

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