Improving tomato yields with new AI-enabled service

Wednesday, 01 April, 2020

NEC Corporation is partnering with Australian tomato processing company Kagome to launch an agricultural management support service using artificial intelligence (AI).

The new service uses NEC's AI-enabled agricultural ICT platform, CropScope, to visualise tomato growth and soil conditions based on sensor data and satellite images, and to provide farming management recommendation services. The AI technology enables the service to provide information on the best timing and optimal amounts of irrigation and fertiliser for the cultivation of healthy crops. As a result, farms are able to achieve stable yields and lower cultivation costs, while practising environmentally sustainable agriculture without depending exclusively on the technical skill of individual growers.

By using this service, tomato processing companies can obtain an understanding of the most effective growing conditions for tomato production on their own farms, as well as their contract growers. Also, they can manage crop harvest orders across all fields in an optimal way based on objective data, which helps to reduce yield loss and improve productivity.

NEC and Kagome began collaborating in the agricultural field back in 2015, and by 2019 they had conducted demonstrations in a variety of regions, including Portugal, Australia and the United States. An AI farming experiment in Portugal in 2019 showed that the amount of fertiliser used for the trial was approximately 20% less than the average amount used in general, yielding 127 tons of tomatoes per hectare, which is approximately 1.3 times that of the average Portuguese grower, and almost the same as that of particularly skilled growers.

With the goal of commercialising this service, Kagome will establish a Smart Agri Division in April 2020, first targeting customers in Europe, then aiming to expand the business to worldwide markets. As a promising market of the future, trial services of tomato production in Japan are scheduled to take place in 2020.

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