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An ideal future for farming through the fusion of manufacturing and agriculture
Revolutionizing farming jobs and working styles to attract new workers into the agricultural industry
Smart Agriculture Fostered by Technology
Throughout the twists and turns of human history, one thing has remained constant: food is required to live. And as the global population continues its rapid growth, demand for food is rising steadily.
Agriculture, which represents the point of contact between people and nature, is the source of such food, and as an industry, agriculture encourages people to think more about our global environment. These are some of the things which make this work so appealing, and some of you may want to try your hand at farming someday.
However, you may also find it hard to get engaged in farming for the first time.
With this in mind, DENSO is conducting R&D in the agricultural industry with the goal of making it more accessible to potential future farmers who have little or no relevant experience or knowledge.
Contents of this article
Agriculture as a viable career option
In recent times, attitudes toward work and working styles have changed dramatically due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the work style reform. These changes, along with the advantages provided by digital technologies, have increased flexibility in terms of workplaces, working hours and more, giving employees greater potential freedom.
As society continues to change, each of us must think about which types of jobs and working conditions we want.
“I would like to work in touch with nature while I live in the place near my company.”
“I want to work to spend my free time doing something meaningful.”
And farming may be one of our choices.
Farming can be tailored to fit such individual lifestyle needs, and can even open up rewarding future career paths.
On the other hand, we also know that it is not that easy to get engaged in farming.
Improving working styles for farmers
Farm work involves a wide range of tasks, from plowing the soil through to harvesting the crops, and much knowledge is necessary to be successful. Moreover, crops must be looked after carefully every day, whether amid the blazing summer heat or the chilly days of winter, and regardless of any adverse effects of climate change, natural disasters such as typhoons and floods, and other natural challenges such as pests, all of which can affect yields.
Despite these challenges, some people still want to get engaged in farming to grow many healthy crops and make people happy with the crops. And some of these people may be interested in pursuing farming as a large-scale business.
In order to help these people pursue their passion, DENSO has set out to build a future where agriculture is a more accessible career to all. In industrial field, DENSO has spent many long years working together with its employees around the world, who possess diverse cultural backgrounds and personal values, in order to manufacture products with reliable quality. Now, it is applying its know-how and experience of manufacturing to agriculture. Relevant applications include:
Frameworks that enable people to produce goods with reliable quality regardless of personal experience level
Methods to achieve efficient production without any waste in terms of processes, yields, etc.
Approaches that position human workers as the main producers, with support of robots in order to raise productivity
DENSO is embarking on new challenges to apply these changes in agriculture, thus improving working styles for agriculture.
Changing agricultural operations by manufacturing approaches
Reliable crop production even for the inexperienced workers
— Preparing the growing environments —
Because crops are affected by climate conditions and weather, their growing environments must be carefully prepared in advance. Greenhouses can be used to protect crops from harsh weather as they grow, but they tend to trap heat inside, making it difficult to achieve optimal growing conditions there.
In that case it is necessary to open windows on the ceiling and walls of greenhouses to control the temperature there, but it takes a lot of work to check the temperature and to open or close windows as necessary to keep the optimal growing conditions.
In order to reduce the required workload for such environmental adjustments, DENSO has developed the Profarm Controller, the climate control system. It always checks the conditions in greenhouses with sensors, and opens and closes windows automatically as necessary to reduce the workloads of environment adjustment.
However, when windows are simply opened and closed to change the environment conditions, the wind might prove too weak or strong to change the temperature, or harmful pests might enter greenhouses and spread diseases among the crops.
In order to ensure a more reliable growing environment, DENSO has developed the Profarm T-cube®, which makes the greenhouses almost closed by removing windows on the ceilings, and controls the temperature by ventilation fans with airflow technologies.
These improvements make greenhouse environments less susceptible to problems related to wind and pests, and help stabilize growing operations.
— Learning from other growers —
Conventional greenhouses have been designed specific to the environments of the places where they are built, and they have their own growing environments in themselves.
As a result, they cannot refer to other greenhouses’ growing environment for their greenhouses, and it takes long time to set their own growing environment.
DENSO has addressed this issue by developing its Profarm T-cube® greenhouse, a total solution based on a standardized design. This enables farmers to learn more efficiently the growing environment in other growers’ greenhouses.
Realizing planned agricultural production
— Setting production yields based on sales amounts —
In farming, factors such as weather and crop varieties ultimately determine the yield, which is why many farmers believe it’s best to harvest as much as possible. However, this means that good harvest raises its selling price, and bad one lowers it for the season. Furthermore, if yields greatly exceed market demand and growers still pick all available crops, they must absorb the cost of storing large inventories of excess production.
In other words, an abundant harvest for the season does not necessarily mean the grower will make a lot of money. It is necessary to ship “the amount of crops that can be sold steadily” with constant quality in order to ensure reliable profits.
To this end, DENSO has created a system that can control overall agricultural production operations based on planned output volumes, applying the industrial manufacturing approaches to agriculture, such as predicting market demand in advance and calculating waste-free production volume.
Even if predicted sales volume change, appropriate adjustments can be made to production operations, warehousing, and ship-to-market volumes, while worker numbers and labor distribution are adjusted flexibly in order to enable these. This eliminates excess stock and wasted labor, making farm management more efficient.
Agricultural production tailored to employee working styles
— Using robots for tasks that are difficult for human workers —
Even for people who are interested in agriculture because they feel it is rewarding and can help them grow on a personal level, pushing oneself too hard leads to fatigue.
Farm work entails carrying heavy loads, working until late at night, and many other tiring tasks. On a large farm, crops are picked by the ton every day, transported to a central shipping area, then weighed and sorted in order of harvest. By greatly reducing the physical burden imposed on workers by these tiring tasks, the workers can focus on their rewarding and enjoyable jobs.
With this in mind, DENSO has developed a robot that can carry, measure, and sort crops on behalf of human workers. Robots never get tired, no matter how many trips they make back and forth with heavy crops, and we can rest assured that they can measure and sort crops automatically without errors. In other words, they can handle work which humans find difficult.
The same applies to crop picking, so DENSO has developed a harvesting robot which doesn’t get tired—no matter how many hours and how late at night it works. Moreover, human workers often make differing decisions based on individual experiences, and also make errors when they pick crops. Using robots for picking, on the other hand, enables error-free picking of uniform-quality crops based on predetermined ripeness levels.
— More flexible work hours —
People’s needs in terms of work hours vary greatly. Some employees may want to work longer shifts than others, while others may simply want to get in a few hours whenever they have some free time. By providing more flexible work-schedule options for employees, it’s possible to make the agricultural industry more attractive to prospective farmers.
DENSO has developed a more flexible work management framework that allows employees set schedules based on their personal needs. After deciding on and registering their desired work shifts, each worker can then check their assigned shifts and work tasks via a tablet device. This approach gives people a wider range of options for working in agriculture.
DENSO is working to make this ideal future a reality—a future in which anyone who wants to work in agriculture can do so with peace of mind.
A framework that leverages workers creativity to create new value
In addition to facilitating agriculture workplaces where people can enjoy steady, reliable work, DENSO is focusing on making the most of worker’s creativity in this industry.
Many growers want to produce sweeter fruits and vegetables, cultivate more esthetically pleasing produce, and make other such improvements to provide greater happiness to the end customers. In order to adjust growing conditions to achieve these product improvements, operators can deploy DENSO’s Profarm Controller to collect data on the greenhouse environment, which can then be analyzed in order to improve flavor, product appearance and so forth. In short, this technology enables growers to devote more time and energy to improvement tasks.
Furthermore, anyone can be engaged in agriculture with their important thoughts by our supporting the minimum requirements for farming with our devices and systems.
Not only people in agriculture field but also those in other fields may be able to use their knowledge in farming, and we may see new crops with various merits.
And by using these crops to foster a new food culture, producers can add new value to the agricultural industry.
Jobs that interest people for ideal agricultural industry
In the field of manufacturing, DENSO has always cherished the creativity of people and the things they dream of making, which is why DENSO develops cooperative human–robot work systems which support human creativity. Moreover, DENSO has always emphasized glocalization at its various factories around the globe, building production frameworks that take into consideration each local region and its unique needs.
By applying manufacturing technologies to agriculture, DENSO believes it can achieve more flexible working styles suited to people of any age, physical ability and experience level. Agriculture can become a career that anybody can take up, anytime and anywhere, and continue over the long term.
This is the kind of attractive agricultural work that DENSO hopes to achieve. DENSO will keep working hard to realize such lifestyle-sustainable agriculture.
DENSO’s website has a wide range of interesting articles on the agricultural industry.
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