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Agri-Platform Consortium

Director: Jun Murai (Professor, Faculty of Environment and Information Studies)
Contact: Shinjo Laboratory, Faculty of Environment and Information Studies, Keio University
Tel: +81-466-49-3521
e-mail: kaminari[at]sfc.keio.ac.jp

Outline

Japan, a country that can boast top-level agricultural technology and a superlative distribution system

Japan has achieved a very high level of agricultural technology and has been very effective in putting it to practical use. It has also realized a distribution system that can provide high quality agricultural products at reasonable prices.
Exemplary farmers, called "Takumi (master)," with long experience and real expertise play an important role with regard to the development of such agricultural technology. In order to continue and refine methods of sustainable development in the agricultural industry, it is essential to further advance the "expertise of Takumi" who have a sense and deep understanding of crop conditions and the natural environment. They are able to accurately apply the most appropriate solutions for their farming. It is also imperative to establish a structure that can secure the rights of exemplary farmers and make their expertise available to many other farmers.

"Expertise of Takumi" is the "judgment" capability necessary to identify and apply the most appropriate farming methods in accordance with an accurate understanding of crop conditions and the natural environment. There have been certain initiatives aimed at generalization and creation of instructional guidelines regarding the "expertise of Takumi," and although this has been successful in describing the procedures for Takumi "farming methods," it has been difficult to see any tangible results to date as it has proven impossible to describe "judgment" in terms of conditions.

However, "judgment" actually utilized by exemplary farmers can be clarified further through analysis of the correlation between "crop conditions and the natural environment" and "farming methods." Through this, "farming methods" with a more advanced capacity for "judgment" will be generated.
As a prerequisite of this, it is essential to establish a system whereby society can return the benefits to exemplary farmers who are an important asset for our country. This can be achieved through defined protection of their mastery and expertise being viewed as intellectual property.

The same situation can be observed in the area of distribution. Experienced distributors use their "judgment" regarding the distribution method for agricultural products to identify product conditions, and deliver products to consumers in the best possible condition. For example, it is sometimes not appropriate to distribute products at a constant temperature, but rather necessary to create a more appropriate environment according to the growth environment or the ripeness level of the product. Product values can be maximized when products are delivered to consumers in the best condition according to "judgment." If we ignore such "judgment" and standardize operational procedures and data exchange structures, we cannot generate any real values.

In order to improve values within the entire agricultural industry in Japan and establish a "Made in Japan" brand with quality, it is vital to realize a "standardization" strategy with a "comprehensive production and sales system for valuable agricultural products." This means a shift from the segment specific approach to "expertise of Takumi" according to individual production and distribution scenarios.

Research Themes

In FY 2009, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan, Keio University was engaged to popularize and spread exemplary farmers' "expertise of Takumi" under The AI Research Group. In FY 2008 and FY 2009, the university was entrusted by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to work on a project to develop sales solutions for fresh food products based on the "judgment" possessed by experienced distribution and retail professionals. Through these projects, we have connected "production" and "distribution" and come to focus on "structures for production and sales for valuable agricultural products."

Following on from these activities, this consortium will conduct the three core projects shown below as mid-long term development measures for the agriculture industry in Japan, focusing on "expertise of Takumi" or "judgment" of experienced farmers, distributors and retailers.

  1. Research into a technological analysis of "expertise of Takumi"
  2. Study of structures to protect and apply personal intellectual property status on those who possess "expertise of Takumi"
  3. Research into the popularization and the spread of "expertise of Takumi"

To date, Keio University has been active in conducting projects on popularization and the spread of the Internet. In light of these existing initiatives, this consortium will aim at the development of a platform that will shape "structures for production and sales for valuable agricultural products," supported by one of the most advanced agricultural technology bases in the world. This is to be pursued in order to realize "aggressive agriculture," not just an argument for standardization.
Projects working with "expertise of Takumi" will generate a variety of solutions, including the improvement of food self-sufficiency rates, an increase in exports of high quality agricultural products, and the resolution of food problems in developing countries. Collaboration among industry, government and academia will lead these projects with a commitment from the entire country with the cooperation of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Activity Infrastructure
[ Activity Infrastructure (image) ]

Researchers, managers and professors

Name Affiliatoin
o Jun Murai Professor, Faculty of Environment and Information Studies
Representative.
Atsushi Shinjo Associate Professor, Faculty of Environment and Information Studies
Deputy Representative.
Agricultural Information Science
Masayoshi Sen Project Associate Professor, Graduate School of Media and Governance