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Digital Farming in Japan

Japan as a country has one of the world’s lowest food self sufficiency rates amongst all major economies. In 1960, the self-sufficient caloric intake was 79%. However, it has now fallen to around 40%. Japan aims to increase this number to 45% food self-sufficiency by 2030. However, there are several hurdles, mainly owing to the geographical and demographic makeup of the country. Firstly, two-thirds of the country’s area is populated by mountainous regions, making agricultural activity difficult. Secondly, the aging population is leading to a fall in the number of farmers, who are aged 67 years on average at present.

To help alleviate the situation, the government has resorted to a rather interesting and fitting approach for the tech savvy nation i.e., Digital Farming.

In 2016, Japan’s Cabinet Office announced the intention to utilize Big Data, the Internet of Things (IoT), and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in agricultural efforts across the country. Agricultural reforms were thus pushed with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF) to incorporate smart farming technologies and today with the collaboration between municipal governments, the National Agriculture Research Institute, and the private sector, there are more than 121 sites engaging in smart agriculture projects. The Japanese government further believes that digital farming will help overcome water shortages which are increasingly becoming a global issue especially in developing nations, by allowing even inexperienced farmers to manage water usage efficiently and prevent wastage.

Given the implications and perceived benefits, do you believe digital agriculture initiatives may have a place in Pakistan where farmers are exploited, and water shortage is rampant with over 95% of water use directed towards agriculture in the country? Could digital agriculture put an end to water crisis and human rights abuses alike?