TOKYO (Nikkei)–Murata Mfg. Co. (6981)and some 10 information technology firms based out of Sendai are teaming up with Tohoku University to promote the use of cloud computing to help farmers in areas ravaged by the earthquake.
The initiative is designed to help farmers who have been forced to live away from their farms due to the devastation caused by the quake and tsunami.
Sensors developed by Murata will measure a variety of factors like soil salinity, radioactivity and soil temperature, and the data will be transmitted via smartphones to a server on the Internet. Farmers will be able to access and manage the information from the cloud using software programs developed by the Sendai IT firms. The integration of software and systems on the cloud will be the job of Tohoku University.
As a first step, salinity sensors will be distributed starting in April to farmers in tsunami-flooded areas of Miyagi Prefecture who wish to continue farming. The data will be collected as a log on the Internet that will be accessible for sharing by all.
Then, from next fiscal year, experiments will begin using a variety of sensors and the cloud-computing system for outdoor farming. The farmers will have access via the cloud to information about total sunlight, temperature and humidity in their fields, which they can use to manage fertilizer usage and adjust shipment plans.
The system initially will be offered free, but the partners hope to commercialize a simple system that can help farmers pursue outdoor farming.
Many municipalities in the Tohoku region are seeking ways to revive their economies, but often the proposals are grand in scale and require large investments, such as the “plant factories” conceived by several large corporations.
This new project is different in that the goal is to develop an inexpensive system that can be used by smaller farmers to grow crops outdoors again on their own land.
(The Nikkei Jan. 21 morning edition)