Starting November, e-kakashi to be deployed to raise agricultural productivity while using less water
SoftBank Corp. (“SoftBank”) today announced that from November 2019 “e-kakashi”—an AI-powered “brain” for agriculture—will be deployed in Colombia for the Smart Rice Farming Project (“the Project”). The Project, which is supported by IDB Lab*1, the Inter-American Development Bank’s innovation lab, aims to improve the productivity and sustainability of rice farming in Colombia.
Thanks to their large landmasses, Colombia and other countries in the Latin America and Caribbean region (LAC region) have the potential to become agricultural production powerhouses. However, since agriculture greatly impacts the environment with its high levels of water consumption, new solutions using Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are being sought to balance productivity and sustainability through the efficient use of resources. Led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), along with seedling distribution, the Project’s purpose is to spread the adoption of low-input rice cultivation in the LAC region by compiling know-how into digital manuals.
SoftBank’s e-kakashi has already been tested*2 in Colombia by CIAT at its pilot rice paddies and the Project will utilize insights from these tests to deploy e-kakashi as an ICT-based solution. After trials that use e-kakashi with CIAT, local rice milling companies, rice farmers and others are finished, the Project aims to spread commercial-level implementation in Colombia and to other LAC region countries.
Through the use of e-kakashi, SoftBank aims to contribute to the realization of sustainable agriculture around the world.
*1 IDB Lab is contributing a total of 2 million USD to the Smart Rice Farming Project. *2 The pilot started in 2017 within the framework of Japan’s Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development (SATREPS) as the “Project for Development and Adoption of Latin American Low-Input Rice Production System through Genetic Improvement and Advanced Field-Management Technologies.” e-kakashi was implemented at rice paddies inside CIAT’s facility in Cali. For more information, visit https://en.pssol.co.jp/news/20170801/
About the Smart Rice Farming Project The Project plans to proceed in two phases. Phase 1: e-kakashi will be installed for trials at the estates of three farmers (who farm a total of 213 hectares) in the Cauca and Valle de Cauca Departments. While verifying the results of e-kakashi with local rice milling companies, CIAT and SoftBank will jointly create digital manuals for low-input rice cultivation. Phase 2: The project seeks to expand coverage to the Arauca and Casanare Departments for non-rice crops.
e-kakashi’s expected results 1. Create digital manuals on cultivation know-how and increase agricultural production through the collection and analysis of environmental data To spread the adoption of low-input rice cultivation, not only is it necessary to distribute seedlings, know-how on cultivation also needs to be spread. In addition to visualizing cultivation environments in large fields by collecting environmental and weather data, e-kakashi simplifies the sharing of cultivation know-how since it can link collected data to farming experiences in digital manuals. e-kakashi also identifies important growth and stunting factors at each stage of crop growth by utilizing AI with accumulated agronomical insights. With these tools, e-kakashi is expected help farmers better navigate the cultivation process, thereby increasing their productivity.
2. Conserve water and reduce methane emissions In addition to requiring large amounts of water, flooded rice paddies emit as much as 500 million tons of methane worldwide, which is around 20 percent of total human-made emissions of methane gas. Since the warm, waterlogged soil of rice paddies provides ideal conditions for producing methane, optimizing water management in the LAC region, which does not have widespread water management technologies in place, is an urgent issue. e-kakashi contributes to both agriculture productivity and reduced methane emissions since it tracks and calculates optimal water levels at each phase of plant growth.
About CIAT The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) is a Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) research center. CIAT develops technologies, innovative methods and knowledge that enable farmers, especially smallholders, to make agriculture more competitive, profitable, sustainable and resilient. Headquartered in Cali, Colombia, CIAT conducts research for development in tropical regions of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. https://ciat.cgiar.org/
About IDB Lab IDB Lab is the innovation laboratory of the IDB Group, the leading source of development finance and know-how for improving lives in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). The purpose of IDB Lab is to drive innovation for inclusion in the region, by mobilizing financing, knowledge, and connections to co-create solutions capable of transforming the lives of vulnerable populations affected by economic, social or environmental factors. Since 1993 IDB Lab has approved more than US$2 billion in projects deployed across 26 LAC countries. As of October 29, 2018, IDB Lab is the new identity of the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF). https://bidlab.org/