Harvest, a three-day hackathon-ideathon, held at Toranomon Hills, in Minato-ku, Tokyo, and organized by Nikkei Inc. as part of “AG/SUM” (special partner: Mori Building) reached its climax on February 19. Eight out of 25 teams were chosen to go through to an accelerator program, that culminates in a pitch contest in May. Details of the winning teams and their ideas are outlined below.
Hacker Farm Hacker Farm is a team from America that came up with a service called Grow Tokyo. Many office workers in Tokyo are interested in agriculture. Hacker Farm will provide office workers with opportunities to learn about and try their hand at farming. Office workers who participate in the service will learn from a skilled farmer (mentor) several times a week, and farm vacant lots in urban centers. Learning about agriculture while working reduces the risks involved when quitting full-time employment to take up farming.
＜Comment from Winning Team＞ “I’m so glad we came all the way from California! It feels amazing. We’ve done many hackathons before, but we’re very excited to win at such a big one.” ––Mr. Alan Ware
PPAP is a team from the University of Tokyo that aims to be a venture company. The team plans to popularize pecan nuts in Japan. Pecan nuts, grown on deciduous trees from the walnut family, contain a high level of antioxidants expected to assist in anti-aging. The team plans to gather data using drones and IoT sensors and to develop more highly productive techniques.
＜Comment from Winning Team＞ ”Tokyo University aims to achieve agriculture that will benefit society. I’m glad our efforts were recognized. We’ll work hard so people start to associate PPAP with Tokyo University, instead of Pikotaro. And we hope to make it internationally, just like Pikotaro did. There’s a lot to learn from being on the farm, and there’s work that we can do together. I hope to make agriculture fun.” –– Mr. Hiroyoshi Iwata
AR Team plans to commercialize “Geosporos” a game that provides details of afforestation schemes for open spaces across the globe. By simulating the procedure leading up to afforestation players are able to mimic afforestation in real life. Players learn to plant crops in specific places around the world, and to harvest the crops while overcoming diseases, pests, and changing weather.
＜Comment from Winning Team＞ “It was my first time participating in a hackathon, but I’m very happy because I was especially interested in developing my idea in the Japanese market. I hope to connect the real world and the digital world through games. People have the impression of “sustainability” as being underdeveloped. But I want to change this, and give it the impression of being sophisticated. I think games can help you truly understand things that you’d normally only understand at the surface.”––Ms. Michelle Moriyasu
D&T Farm Inc. based in Okayama City has succeeded in growing bananas in Japan using unique cultivation technology known as “freeze-thaw-arousal technique”. D&T Farm is able to produce more bananas than overseas. This technique involves freezing banana seeds at minus 60 degrees and planting thawed seeds, and has also been demonstrated in the stable production of papaya, coffee beans, and black pepper, etc. in Japan. Cultivation is optimized using an AI-based system that takes pictures of leaf veins. The AI is able to tell how the plant is doing from these images, and will report to the farmer via smartphone.
＜Comment from Winning Team＞ ”Leaf veins are like our capillary vessels. Examining them will tell you everything about their condition, and you can manage the best time to use pesticides and the best time to harvest. I learnt how to examine leaf veins through experience, but by using AI to spread that knowledge, I hope to achieve lower costs of production and stability in global food production.” ––– Mr. SetsuzoTanaka
Tail plans to build a C2C platform for marine products. Approximately 30% of fish hauled is discarded. Tail will enable seafood to be both bought and sold by fishermen, restaurants, markets, and consumers, as a way of resolving this loss.
＜Comment from Winning Team＞ “I studied sharks and stingrays in university. Now I have an internet-related job, and I’ve put aside my love of fish. I’m really grateful for this opportunity, because it allowed me to think about what I really want to do. I plan on taking the next three months step-by-step to complete everything we need to. First, we’ll make an app. I think it’s also important to figure out how to overcome the legal barriers in launching our service, and the strategy for when we launch. There are many problems that we are blind to, such as fishery rights that were brought up (by the judges) today, so we’d like to get a lot of advice from experts during the accelerator program."
The Soil Boosters
To increase crop productivity and sugar content the Soil Boosters plans to develop technology to control soil compression relating to productivity and sugar content using IoT. IoT sensors will be used to gather and analyze soil compression data, and offer solutions to users.
＜Comment from Winning Team＞ “It was difficult to explain three-day’s work in just three minutes, but it was fun. I think we were awarded because we accepted the differences between our diverse team members, and made an effort to communicate better. Also, our idea has the potential to solve global problems, instead of just those in Japan. We’re going to have a team meeting this week.”
Mushiiine plans to breed insects that can produce proteins more efficiently than animals using waste heat from plants and factories. They plan to consider commercialization as powder and bars. Initially products will be marketed as high value-added drugs and health foods in developed countries. With investment of 500 million yen, sales are expected to reach 1.5 billion yen and profit is forecast at 100 million yen. At space stations where urine and feces are treated as waste, such waste can be used as feed to breed insects.
＜Comment from Winning Team＞ “I’ve been spreading ideas on producing crickets as food since last spring, but forming a team with people I met for the first time and having discussions with people who don’t share the same ideas with me was a lot of fun. I want to focus on brushing up the marketing aspect, such as what to make and who to sell it to in preparation for May. I want to launch this company as soon as possible”
Plus A plans to develop a “Dynamic Fintech Service” that supports financing by financial institutions. The service encourages financial institutions to lend money to farmers using, as collateral, data from “Farm Records”, a production information management system that uses global GAP compliant ICT operated by Farm Alliance.
＜Comment from Winning Team> “The hackathon was interesting, because we encountered ideas that were unthinkable to us, and met people with long-term views.The past three days have helped solidify the outline of our idea, so I want to start making the foundation in preparation for May, and want to build a real business as soon as possible. The problem farmers have in getting investment from banks isn’t just a Japanese problem. I want to develop this business in Asia and Africa too.” ––Mr. Matsumoto
Farmece aims to create a market of agricultural data. They will collect microgeo data through bluetooth-embedded farming tools. Analyzing the data will reveal how farmers deal with pests and diseases in their crops. The system itself is already built, and they’ve succeeded in gathering data a farm owned by Tokyo University. They also plan to sell the data overseas, and make Japan the pioneer in agritech data.
＜Comment from Winning Team＞“Our team first met at the Workshop last week. We clicked immediately, because we all shared the common dream of wanting to help farmers like our dads, and farmers and farming villages throughout Japan. These past three days, we sacrificed sleep and exchanged ideas and knowledge. Sometimes we got into heated discussions, but we never forgot to respect each other. It was difficult pitching our idea in three minutes, but I think we managed to show that our idea was a win-win for everyone, from producers to consumers. We want to celebrate our win first, and then start working on brushing up our idea for May.”
KONOBY presented a service that collects data from the farm such as soil moisture levels and temperature. The data will be sent to a cloud, and send out an alert to the farmers’ cellphone when care is needed. They proposed to use NarrowbandIoT, which can be implemented for just 500 yen a month. Existing smart agriculture services tend to cater to smartphones and tablets, but KONOBY will integrate with traditional cell phones, to empower elderly farmers.
＜Comment from Winning Team＞ ”Emi had a vision that everyone was drawn to; what if we could bring empowering tech into the lives of small scale farmers without requiring changing how they farmed? What if we could do this with IoT? What if we could do this at a price that small scale farmers could afford? What could small scale farmers digitizing their data do for agriculture globally?We spent day and night building on this vision, grinding out the research, business plan, pitch, and prototype. Together, we are psyched to move onto the next step, and make this vision become a reality!” –– Mr. Tsubasa Kondo