Rice paddies and drones: Can Japan fix food insecurity?
I was born in Akita, in northern Japan, and I spent my childhood surrounded by rice paddy fields. But I wasn’t always attracted to agriculture. Growing up, I was actually keen to become a doctor, so I could help cure diseases and keep people healthy. While that plan didn’t work out, I discovered a course which involved curing plant diseases, which I realized would allow me to serve a similar purpose.
By curing crop diseases, we can make inroads into tacking global food insecurity. Viruses, insects and certain varieties of funghi can cause great damage to crops. At times, disease can account for the loss of one-third of the annual worldwide crop production. This has a huge impact on health, especially in less developed countries where people are already suffering from food shortages. By tackling the causes of crop degradation, we can improve the world’s food security situation.
Of course, obstacles remain to introducing modern crop practices worldwide. In many developing countries, for instance, farmers lack the funds to buy hi-tech equipment. Secondly, to make best use of modern crop production techniques, farmers need basic literacy skills, as well as an understanding of complex materials and machines – and this isn’t always the case.
While researching the solution to such problems, I uncovered the possibilities of drone technology, which can be really beneficial for people living in more remote areas. For instance, for those living on isolated mountains, drones can be used to spread pesticides and contribute to better crops. Around the same time, a student in my university created an AI program which uses picture diagnosis to detect which leaves are infected by plant diseases. These kinds of technologies can help farmers diagnose what’s wrong and find the best solution, even if they don’t have a full understanding of plant diseases themselves.
Japan is in a great position to be a global leader in this field: we’re a very technologically-advanced country, and we have the skills to create new farming technologies using ICT. These can help farmers living in less developed countries to improve their crop production, reducing their food losses, and tackling malnutrition in their communities. The Youth Ag-Summit is an excellent opportunity to share my ideas with people from all over the world, from developing and developed countries alike. I’m very happy to have been selected!