Kubota’s roadmap of Automatic/Unmanned Agricultural Machinery
Since its founding, Kubota has worked closely with farmers and taken a serious approach toward agricultural issues in Japan and other countries.
Changing the future of farming through its original concept that combines data utilization with automation.
Kubota will keep moving forward with challenges and solutions.
Japan’s population is aging. The average age of farmers in Japan is 67. The number of households with commercial farmers* has fallen drastically from 2.3 million in 2000 to 1.3 million in 2015, and is projected to decrease by half of that figure in the next ten years. Along with these trends, the problems of farmers giving up farming and outsourcing farm operations to others, along with cancellations of farmland that has been left fallow, have resulted in an increasing proportion of professional farmers and farming groups with little experience. With farmers facing a diverse array of challenges including proper management of fields** scattered over large areas, improving crop yield and quality, reducing cost and labor, and creating higher added value for produce, support for farmers has become an urgent issue.
＊“Farmers” refers to households engaged in farming and managing cultivated land of 10 a or more, or earning at least 150,000 yen per year from sales of agricultural products. “Commercial farmers” means farm households managing cultivated land of 30 a or more, or earning at least 500,000 per year yen from sales of agricultural products. (Source: Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries)
＊＊Fields: Areas of farmland on which crops are raised.
In order to solve the issues facing agriculture in Japan and grow it into a stronger and more appealing business,
we will need to further popularize the use of smart agriculture, which utilizes robotics and ICT to offer ultra-labor saving and higher quality in production.
Kubota became one of Japan’s first agricultural manufacturers to begin full-fledged research into smart agriculture.
Today we are developing and provide solutions that enable highly profitable farm management.
From cultivation to operational management, we are working toward advancements that generate a wide range of benefits.
Next-generation farming to realize ultra-labor saving and high quality production by utilizing ICT and
Overcoming the limitations of work capacity of agricultural machinery, such as night operation, multiple operations, automatic operation etc. based on induction of GPS automatic operation system.
Realization of high yield and high quality by maximizing the potential of crops based on sensing technology and minute cultivation based on past data (Precision agriculture) .
Labor saving based on assist suit such as loading-unloading of harvest. Automation of operations based on use of weeding robot etc.
In addition to inexperienced workers being able to perform high precision jobs based on assist device of agricultural machinery, it promotes participation of young people in agriculture based on conversion of knowhow into data.
It delivers peace of mind and trust by directly connecting detailed information on production with the consumers/actual users based on cloud system.
*This image is created based on the information “On the Development of Smart Agriculture” of the homepage of Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF).
*English version source: “Market Report: Smart agriculture, October, 2017” by JETRO
Kubota is now advancing initiatives toward the realization of smart agriculture,
focusing on ultra-labor saving based on automation and precision farming based on the use of data.
Practical application of automated and unmanned driving
Automated and unmanned agricultural machinery can enable farmers to work even while navigating sloped fields without having to hold the steering wheel. Kubota is also an industry leader in this field. In 2016 we launched a rice-transplanter with a keeping straight function and a tractor equipped with automatic steering, and since then we have improved their accuracy for practical use. And with the introduction of the Agri Robo Combine Harvester, in 2018 we finally released GPS-enabled versions of all three major farm products – tractors, rice-transplanters, and combine harvesters. We will provide support systems to help overcome the challenges of decreasing labor force and aging population to make farming more robust and profitable.
In addition to KSAS, which assists farm operations by communicating with machinery and collecting and analyzing work progress, cultivation management and crop information, we are also focused on research and development that will further improve the efficiency of already mechanized work such as tilling and harvesting, in order to enable more precise work with minimized labor.
Kubota’s roadmap of automation and unmanned operation has three steps. In 2017, Kubota launched its Agri Robo Tractor and in 2018, it launched Agri Robo Combine Harvester as Step 2 machines in Japan. In October 2020, Agri Robo Rice-Transplanter will also be available. Also, in Step 2, we are proceeding with further research and development such as sophistication of the control systems, advancing unmanned operation of periphery work, and further automation of field work.
In terms of Step 3, we plan to realize unmanned operation in multiple fields and remote monitoring of traveling on farm roads.
Further research and development are required, including the incorporation of automobile manufacturers’ technology such as 3D dynamic maps, as well as further advancement of safety systems. It will also be necessary to establish high-speed communication infrastructure and mitigate the Road Traffic Act.
To further increase operational effectiveness of automated and unmanned agricultural machinery, Kubota is also preparing for operation and management of multiple machines, supporting formation of optimized travel routes, and building a system that can collect, monitor and utilize the data from automated agricultural machinery.
Sales launched September 2016
Sales launched December 2016
Monitor sales launched June 2017
Sales launched September 2018
Sales launched December 2018
Visualizing operations to make production more efficient
KSAS is the cloud-based agricultural management support service that integrates Kubota tractors, rice-transplanters and combine harvesters with ICT. Launched in 2014, it is now at work on more than 6,000 farms (as of September 2018).
The system uses smartphones, PCs and other devices to visualize farm management by collecting and utilizing data from supported machinery. This leads to improvement in work efficiency, reduction in cost for fertilizer and other supplies, and production of safer and healthier crops. It has already shown its capabilities as an evidence-based solution for more profitable PDCA-type agriculture, which had not existed in Japan, and has raised expectations.
KSAS works to implement efficient and high-added-value production that anyone can easily accomplish. To make the system even more convenient and more profitable, Kubota is working to achieve the following future plans.
(1) Data Communication with Post-harvest Machines and Intermediate Management Machines
In addition to communication with tractors, rice-transplanters, and combine harvesters, communication-enabled post-harvest machines and intermediate management machines (drying systems) were launched in 2017. Communication is also being developed with pesticide-spraying drones. And the system will be applied to dry field and vegetable production as well as rice.
(2) The Establishment of Japanese-style Precision Farming
Using maps layered with location information combined with big data, such as yield and growth information collected from machinery and external weather information, we plan to enable adjustments for fertilizer application and chemical spraying, prediction of growth and pest occurrence, and other features.
(3) Construction of an Advanced Agricultural Business Support System Using AI, etc.
This system combines various information systems, including accounting and sales systems used by farmers, with external data from distributors, financial institutions and other sources, analyzes the accumulated big data and processes it using AI. The system will contribute to profit maximization through simulation-based proposals for optimized planting plans.
More Sustainable Farming and a More Prosperous Future
We will develop smart agriculture for the future of both Japan and the rest of the world through processes that create higher added value, such as improving and integrating systems and various layer maps, to achieve our goals of ultra-labor saving through agricultural machinery automation and precision farming through data utilization. With consideration for local applications and requests, we envision applications to rice production regions and large-scale dry field farming areas in Asia, and smart agricultural machinery development for precision farming optimized for countries in North America and Europe.
In Japan, we will continue to expand functions that support business planning by introducing AI to KSAS, and we will take on areas where practical applications do not yet exist, such as complete unmanned operation of agricultural machines.
Through this new smart agriculture solution, we hope to help everyone achieve more successful farm management for generations to come.
And we want to become the backbone of stability and growth in global food production.
With an awareness of our responsibility for the future and our global-scale mission, Kubota will keep evolving.
Some images are from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries 2014 demonstration of robotics technology in farming, forestry and fisheries,
and the NARO Bio-oriented Technology Research Advancement Institution “Promoting Aggressive Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.”