It is a great pleasure to give a few remarks with my appointment as Director General of the Tohoku Agricultural Research Center (TARC) on April 1, 2019.
National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO) is currently in the fourth year of the 4th Mid-term Plan (FY2016-2020) and is engaged in research and development on a daily basis in order to achieve the mid and long-term plan stated at the beginning of the period. Moreover, the NARO Executive Board has been renewed with the addition of two directors from industry including the President Dr. Kazuo KYUMA. The new executive board carries out the organization management while flexibly reviewing the research system and anticipating the significantly changing agricultural situation.
Research Center for Agricultural Information Technology, NARO (RCAIT. NARO) was established on October,2018 as a part of organization reform. By accelerating the introduction of methods such as AI and ICT in agricultural research and development, we have set up a research system that can quickly realize the agriculture and food version of "Society 5.0" proposed by the government. Business development department was established to promote joint research with private companies etc. and strengthen collaboration. Furthermore, NARO Development Strategy Center was also established on this April as an organization that formulates R & D strategies that reflect the future of NARO from a global perspective.
Japan's Society 5.0 represents the future society that Japan should aspire to. As a society following hunting society, agriculture society, industrial society, and information society, Society 5.0 is a new human-centered society that balances economic advancement with the resolution of social problems by a system that highly integrates cyberspace and physical space. The "Smart Agriculture Acceleration Demonstration Project" was launched as the first step in realizing this agriculture and food edition, and ten projects have been implemented in the Tohoku region. As a secretariat in the Tohoku region, TARC will vigorously promote our business while demonstrating leadership and establish a smart agricultural technology system.
Meanwhile we will also strive hard to achieve the three main research programs of fourth phase of TARC namely, (1) Realization of a large-scale paddy field farming system for cold regions, (2) Cultivation of pioneering cultivars to further improve crop yield, crop quality, and outstanding crop characteristics, and (3) Technological development for measures against radioactive materials. As a tool to accelerate and effectively carry out these research and development, we will promote the incorporation of AI, ICT, etc. into experimental research.
I have also served as a representative of R & D projects involving AI and ICT, but never anticipated that the development and introduction of robotics, AI, and ICT would progress rapidly. However, as a representative of devices that easily handle advanced science and technology such as ICT, smartphones are readily available to everyone. In the period where the technology is becoming more commoditized, if the researchers stay only in the conventional method, it will lead to so-called deterioration of research. Okuhara, former Vice minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has said that "The progress of science and technology has finally caught up with agriculture". Now, it is time to build innovative smart agriculture by incorporating dramatically evolved scientific technology methods into agricultural technology development. With this thought, we will work on the management of TARC.
In order to cope up with the changes in agricultural situation, along with the significant changes in research and development environment, needless to say we will conduct experimental research and demonstration tests in cooperation with public examinations, extension agencies, universities, private companies, farming organizations, etc. In addition, we will continue to actively engage in established outreach activities such as "NANOHANA Open Day", "Hands-on learning of farm work", "NARO-TARC Public Lecture", "On-demand Technical Training", etc.
In order to meet everyone's expectations, TARC will conduct research and development that firmly captures the changing times and regional needs, while promoting social implementation of the obtained results, we will do our best to promote agriculture and rural areas in the Tohoku region through outreach activities that enables more people in the region to know the research results. We look forward for your continuous support and guidance to TARC in the future.
Tomoyuki YUKAWA, PhD
Tohoku Agricultural Research Center (TARC)