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Ministry selects 69 farms for 'smart agriculture' experiments

This file photo taken on Sept. 5, 2018 shows Prime Minister Shinzo Abe inspecting a self-driving tractor at Lawson Farm Niigata in the city of Niigata. (Pool photo)

TOKYO -- The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has named 69 farms at which the ministry will test "smart agriculture" using robots, information technology, artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge tools.

The move is part of a project aiming to help farms save labor and boost their profits. The ministry plans to set model areas throughout the country to use advanced machines such as self-driving tractors and drones, and popularize "smart agriculture" quickly.

The ministry started to solicit applications for the project in January and 252 bids were filed from agricultural corporations across Japan. Outside experts selected 69 farms based on their management goals.

The ministry intends to monitor the reduction of working hours and the cost of manure and other items, and check how much farmers' take-home pay will increase over a period of two years. Through the experiments, it hopes to verify how many years it will take to recover investments on cutting-edge farm machinery.

The experiments themselves will cost about 4.7 billion yen.

(Japanese original by Akiko Kato, Business News Department)

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