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Kagome, NEC partner in Portugal to use AI to cultivate tomatoes for processing with eye on strengthen sales activities in European, U.S. and Australian markets


Kagome and NEC announced on June 15 that they will form a joint venture company, DXAS Agricultural Technology, in Portugal to provide AI-based agricultural support for processing tomatoes. The joint venture intends to expand its business globally, first targeting farms and farmers who cultivate tomatoes for processing on a large scale in Europe, the U.S. and other countries, with a view to eventually expanding its business in Japan.

The cultivation of tomatoes for processing is expected to continue to grow in line with population and economic growth, especially in emerging countries. However, in order to grow tomatoes sustainably, various issues need to be addressed, such as dealing with the decrease in the number of growers and reducing its environmental impact.

Kagome and NEC began developing technology and demonstrating the business for AI-based agriculture recommendation in 2015 with the aim of realizing environmentally friendly and profitable farming. After repeated demonstration tests in Portugal, Spain, Australia and the United States, the business is now operating in seven countries.

Furthermore, in April 2020, the two companies signed a strategic partnership agreement, with NEC's CropScope agricultural ICT platform used for farming, under the direction of Kagome's newly established Smart Agri Division to further improve the functions and quality of farming advice, as well as to study the marketing and future potential of farming support businesses.

This has resulted in the company establishing a new company, DXAS Agricultural Technology, to further accelerate technological development and strengthen sales activities in the agricultural support business, and to begin full-scale operations.

The new company will further integrate Kagome's knowledge of tomato cultivation with NEC's AI-based analysis and forecasting technology to accelerate farming support in processing tomato markets mainly in Europe, the Americas and Australia. The company will continue to refine its business with the aim of expanding into Japan in the future.

The new company is located in Lisbon, Portugal. The project is scheduled to begin in July of this year. Kengo Nakata (currently General Manager of Kagome's Smart Agri Business Division) will assume the position of CEO. The business will include the sales, marketing, promotion, customer development, and service planning for AI-based farming management recommendation services and field visualization services. The company is capitalized in Euros equivalent to 300 million yen, with Kagome holding 66.6% and NEC 33.4% in equity.

The new company's vision is "Innovate global agriculture with DX solutions". It aims to enter an age in which everyone can conduct agriculture accurately and efficiently by delivering optimal solutions for any field created by incorporating skilled farming technologies into AI. It also seeks to establish new agriculture that is adaptable to climate change, sustainable, low input, high output and more productive.

The company will accelerate the creation of new value and the enhancement of services from the AI technologies it has accumulated. In the future, the company will further improve the efficiency of farming operations through linking AI and irrigation facilities to help tomato processing companies and growers reduce their workload. It will also improve cultivation methods from soil preparation to harvest, which are important for crop growth, using the results of Kagome's agricultural research to provide environmentally friendly and highly profitable farming support services.

It will strengthen service provision systems through the new company and develop a global system in which personnel with agronomic knowledge and experience understand each user's farm site and support the proposal of optimal services and the application of technology. It will also strengthen partnerships in the agricultural industry to further accelerate business development.

The core of the business, NEC's CropScope, is an AI-based farm management recommendation service. AI that has acquired the know-how of skilled farmers enables environmentally friendly and profitable farming. It also facilitates technology succession and helps to increase the number of new farmers.

Screen image of CropScope. It has the ability to report field conditions, such as the growth of crops and the water content of soil
Provided by Kagome

In addition, the field visualization service utilizes sensors and satellite images to visualize the conditions of tomato growers' vast fields, enabling them to promptly notice tomato diseases and other abnormalities, thereby reducing cultivation risks.

This article has been translated by JST with permission from The Science News Ltd.( Unauthorized reproduction of the article and photographs is prohibited.

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