Driverless ‘robo-tractors’ coming soon to Japanese potato and rice fields

Image result for japanese robot-tractorGreying farmers, a rural exodus and low food self-sufficiency have thrust Japan’s biggest agricultural machinery manufacturers into a national race to build a driverless tractor, according to a report by the Financial Times. It is said that the quest to perfect the “robo-tractor” is strongly encouraged by the Japanese government at the highest level, and is viewed as a way to stem the slowdown of Japanese agriculture. The first commercial generation of these tractors is expected to go on sale to many potato, rice and vegetable farmers on the islands of Hokkaido and Kyushu next year – at a cost of about 50% more than the cost of regular tractors. Sometime after 2020, say some of the Japanese companies involved, a rice or potato farmer having to continue working into his 80’s could send his driverless fleet off to plough, sow and harvest a crop from the comfort of his living room. They could even work at night. Recent statistics on fatal accidents in 2015 involving farm machinery showed that nearly 50% involved a farmer over the age of 80. (Source: Financial Times)