The Japanese technology firms are using their experience in saving energy and in cloud technology to help farmers cope with changes in climate, cheaper imports and declining labor.
Panasonic, Fujitsu and others looking for an opportunity in a niche market to offset the decline in demand for consumer electronics, are working in greenhouses and controlled by automatic sensors to ensure constant conditions to produce high quality vegetables all year fields .
Fujitsu says its agricultural system Akisai cloud means users can sit behind a desk in Tokyo, or even in New York, while cultivating vegetables in Shizuoka, using a tablet to control sprinklers, fans and heaters in response to changes in the temperature and humidity detected by the sensors in fields or greenhouses.
Companies are also becoming factories on farmland: Toshiba will begin to grow in an old floppy plant near Tokyo, while Panasonic is growing radishes and lettuce in a Singapore plant, Sharp Corp and trying to grow strawberries indoors, in Dubai.
This technology push in agriculture is supported by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is promoting sensors and robots to improve agricultural production and essential agricultural exports if Japan accepts lower rates on the free trade agreement of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Domestic demand for agricultural systems that use information technology and cloud is expected to multiply nine to 60,000 million yen (40,000 million euros) in 2020, according to market research firm Seed Planning in a time when farmers are concerned about the impact of climate change on their crops.
Summer in Japan last year was the warmest on record, with temperatures reaching in Tokyo 35 degrees Celsius for a week in early August.
"During the last 4-5 years, the price of vegetables has risen every year for the heat," said Takayoshi Tanizawa, project manager Panasonic greenhouses. "Farmers are in trouble because they can not grow vegetables in the summer. They say they have never experienced such heat before. There are also many episodes of heavy rain. Unusual weather is becoming more and more 'normal'."
(Translated by Maria Vega Paul in writing Madrid)