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Drones: The New Age of Farming

SNA (Tokyo) — Over the past year, developers have been working in northeastern Japan to create and test drones that can aid farmers in their tasks of working the fields. These drones are able to hover above the ground and distribute pesticides to the rice fields, making the job more efficient.

The agriculture industry has been facing a shortage of workers in the rural communities as younger people tend to leave for the cities. This means that it is mainly those from the older generation that are left in the rural communities and must work on the farms.

According to a 2015 Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries survey, 63.5% of those primarily engaged in agriculture were aged 65 or older. This was 3.3 times more than thirty years previously.

Throughout the last decade, the government has launched numerous initiatives in hopes of encouraging younger people to take jobs in the agriculture sector. For instance, in 2009 the government promoted the Rural Labor Squad which put unemployed and underemployed youth to work on farms. The government has also discussed plans for extending the stay of foreigners that are working in the agricultural sector, especially those coming through the Technical Intern Training Program.

However, more recently the government has shifted its focus towards technology.

Indeed, the increased use of drones might gain the attention of young people and others who have an interest in technology. It could relieve the burden on the agricultural labor force, as well as the physical and mental stress of the aging farmers.

Nileworks Inc has produced a drone called the Nile-T18 which can carry out tasks in a more efficient way. These drones are even able to analyze rice stalks and then determine the amount of pesticide or fertilizer needed.

One roadblock to the widespread adoption of farming drones, however, is their price tag. The Nile-T18, for example, costs around 4 million yen (about US$36,000) per unit. It may be necessary for the government to offer subsidies to promote these high-technology advances.

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