Digital tech aiding urban farming in Tokyo

Small-scale farmers in Tokyo are increasingly expanding the boundaries of agriculture through the use of digital technology and other means. “This tomato is splitting; is it still viable?” asked Sanpei Hattori in an experimental greenhouse of NTT AgriTechnology Corp. in Chofu, Tokyo, in mid-October.

“It’s probably because you abruptly gave water to a place that used to be very dry,” replied Tomonori Akiyama, a specialist at the Tokyo Metropolitan Agricultural Research Center in Tachikawa, situated about 18 kilometers from the greenhouse. “It’s not a disease, so please don’t worry.”

Akiyama provided his online guidance after observing the video and listening to explanations from Hattori via the latter’s “smart glasses.” “[Operating online], I can offer advice to many more farmers than I could if I was visiting them in person,” Akiyama said.

NTT AgriTechnology, a subsidiary of telecommunications giant NTT Group, has been working on an experiment with the Tokyo metropolitan government to apply digital technology to agriculture since 2020. The greenhouse is equipped with a 5G antenna that enables communication with remote locations, a high-resolution 4K camera with a zoom function, and a mobile camera that allows crops to be monitored from anywhere.


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