As part of a structural reorganization of the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO), the Research Center for Agricultural Information Technology was established on October 1, 2018. With the aim of promoting the 'smartization' of agriculture and the food industry, external personnel with expertise in artificial intelligence (AI) will be appointed to train human resources who will be at the forefront in conduct extensive research towards the realization of smart agriculture using AI technology and big data.
- NARO has established the Research Center for Agricultural Information Technology towards the realization of the government's initiative for a super-smart society, "Society 5.0", in the field of agriculture and food with the following objectives:
(1) To promote agricultural AI research by utilizing big data, the latest AI technologies, and linkage of proprietary-based agricultural data;
(2) To establish a research and management system for long-term stable operation of agricultural data collaboration platform.
(3) To develop ICT human resources with expertise in AI and solve various issues and challenges facing agriculture.
- The Research Center for Agricultural Information Technology is established as a center directly under the NARO President (Dr. Kazuo Kyuma) and supervised by the Vice-President for Research Promotion I (Dr. Kazuo Terashima) and Director-General (Dr. Kuniaki Motoshima). The respective directors in-charge of research in agricultural AI and agricultural data collaboration platform, will invite external experts from to be at the forefront of research application of AI technology. An initial staff consisting of 30 members (including 23 researchers) has been appointed with the base located at the NARO Headquarters (3-1-1 Kannondai, Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture). The staff will be increased to about 50 people in FY2019, with researchers from private companies to be accepted as well in the near future. The center will also promote cooperation with the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) and major universities.
- The center will tackle the utilization of AI technology in the smart food chain, a "Society 5.0" platform in the field of agriculture and food, encompassing strategic tasks from breeding to production, processing, distribution and consumption. External experts of AI research will educate research personnel from the research centers and institutes of NARO through on the job training (OJT) and resolve issues related to smart food chain. Upon acquiring the necessary skills, these researchers will be sent back to their respective centers and institutes to conduct AI research and to promote AI technology. This is expected to facilitate the nurturing of approximately 10% (200 people) of NARO researchers with sufficient IT literacy. In cooperation with the public experimental stations and technical extension workers, the center also aims to achieve the government's goal in which almost all key players in agriculture can efficiently use agricultural data by 2025.
- The center will prioritize about 30 projects that are particularly important in the smart food chain. Through solving these problems, NARO is aiming to realize the improvement in productivity of the entire smart food chain, elimination of waste, reduction of total cost, creation of high value added agricultural crops / foods, matching of needs and seeds etc. By providing the results of these agricultural AI research widely and rapidly to the industry and agriculture sectors through the agricultural data collaboration infrastructure, NARO would be able to contribute to the early realization of "Society 5.0" in food and agriculture.