It’s no longer a matter of if ag businesses will be forced to add more “technology” to their operations but more a matter of how quickly they can make it happen. Japanese dairy farmer Kenichi Kato, knew investing in technology was his only hope to keep his 90 head operation functioning. But sinking $2 million into modernizing his dairy farm was no small decision. The human labor shortages and the need for efficiency forced Kato to explore more automated options. For some time now, Japan has been dealing with its declining population and I’m told that the current workforce on average is only two-thirds as productive as American workers. Meaning, sectors like the dairy industry struggle to get by. But there is one answer to the labor shortage and it has doubled its presence in the last three years, robotics. Kato’s $2 million dollar investment bought him a shed that relies on a pair of $230,000 robots to milk some 90 cows and an $18,000 robot to help feed them. Fortunately, the government is absorbing some of the pain of investment as they have seen fit to reimburse farmers up to 50%. The milking robot is only the size of a small truck and will extend under the cow before milking in order to clean the udder. Then the robot shoots out four arms and attaches a suction tube to each teat while she enjoys some feed. Within 10 minutes, it is the next cow’s turn. Milk is carried by tubes into a refrigerator while the machine checks the cow’s identity from tags on her ears and stores data on each cow’s production. The tech revolution is moving fast in Japan as businesses all across the country are investing in robotics and information technology to speed up everyday tasks and hopefully reduce the extreme working conditions found in the country. From what I understand, much of the motivation is due to a rash of suicides linked to work pressure and work hours. I suspect we might soon see a lots more innovation coming from Japan as they find themselves without a qualified and willing workforce… Remember, necessity is the mother of all invention! You can watch a video of the Kato’s operations HERE. (Source: Wall Street Journal)

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