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Japanese telecom groups support smart farming abroad

SoftBank helping rice growers in Colombia; Docomo targets North America

PS Solutions offers smart-farming services in Japan.

TOKYO -- Japanese telecommunications groups will use their expertise in "internet of things" technologies to support farming abroad.

SoftBank Group will help rice growers in Colombia increase production. In a pilot study starting this month, sensors placed in rice paddies will monitor nutrients in the soil, water levels, temperature and humidity. The collected data will be used to create a manual tailored to each farmer and accessible by smartphone.

The study will be carried out by SoftBank unit PS Solutions in cooperation with Hitachi and Colombia's International Center for Tropical Agriculture.

NTT Docomo will offer remote monitoring services in North America and Asia. A service for ranchers will allow them to reduce the number of times they need to check on animals. A sensor placed in a cow's body will track its temperature. If there are signs the animal is going to give birth, an email message will be sent to the subscriber's smartphone. A service for rice growers will provide such data as the temperature and water level in the paddies. 

KDDI will sell a hydroponic lettuce-growing kit that includes a container and seeds. A camera monitors the plant's condition and notifies the owner via a smartphone app when water should be added. Sales of the product, developed by group members KDDI Research and Okinawa Cellular Telephone, will likely start this fiscal year in South Korea, China and Taiwan.

The smart farming market is expected to grow to $11.2 billion in 2022, up from $5.18 billion in 2016, according to a U.S. research firm.


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