Tsunami disaster site rehabilitated as robot farm
The Japanese government is reclaiming land flooded by the March 2011 tsunami and turning it into what Wired calls a "robot-run super farm." The Ministry of Agriculture has claimed a 600-acre site, part of thousands of acres of farmland destroyed by the tsunami and its aftereffects, for its "Dream Project" — a farm tilled by unmanned tractors and harvested by robots.
The government isn't looking to let robots push farmers out of a job. In fact, they're hoping the project will spur financial investment in farming, creating a new network of corporation-sponsored farms that will let beleaguered farmers stay solvent. "Corporate farm" is not exactly the most promising-sounding term, but Japan's agriculture is struggling post-tsunami and people gotta eat.
Japanese technology titans like Panasonic and NEC will be invited to join the project, in a national bid to revive the beleaguered agricultural sector. Fujitsu, Hitachi, Sharp, Yanmar, Ajinomoto and Ito-Yokado Co. are also expected to join, and raise around 10 billion yen [$130 million] in total.
The project will last for six years. Once the lease period is finished, the government plans to urge local farmers to consolidate their farmland under the farming corporations, according to national paper the Nikkei.
The "Dream Project" isn't just a step towards Jetson-style automation of menial jobs (and possibly Snow Crash-style corporate control). It's also environmentally sensitive. The farm will use no pesticides, and instead of chemical fertilizers, the carbon dioxide emissions from the robotic farm workers will be channeled back in to enrich the soil.