Japanese AgriTech startup Farmship innovates in automated seedling selection through AI to reduce food loss and enhance yields.
Tokyo-based Farmship is an agricultural technology (AgriTech) startup which has developed artificial intelligence (AI) technology to analyse the growth potential of spinach seedlings to reduce food loss and increase yields. This automated robot-assisted measuring technology was created with Pi Material Design, an information science startup grown from the University of Tsukuba.
Farmship’s AI system uses photographs to estimate the height, width, and weight of seedlings in order to predict future growth. It then will eliminate seedlings that are not performing well whilst identifying which will grow the most, making harvesting more efficient. The startup was able to increase the ratio of seedlings growing properly to 80%, in contrast with 54% in standard practice, contributing to 17% more yields.
Simultaneously, Farmship will work to improve watering and other environmental factors to boost seedling growth.
Their current trial system relies on people to photograph seedlings and replant them, however Farmship is working to fully automate the process within the next two years with robots in “vegetable factories.”
Indoor facilities which usually use vertical farming systems – or vegetable factories – are projected to stabilise production and improve quality, as they will be less affected by weather and other extraneous circumstances. Barriers to the growth of these facilities include cost and labour, as sorting seedlings is the second-most time consuming task after harvesting, accounting for about a twelfth of cultivation costs.
Farmship aims to significantly reduce these costs and automate production through their AI and robotics technology.
The AgriTech startup developed their technology as part of a larger project in collaboration with the government-backed New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization. The current market for vegetables grown in plant factories in Japan is JP¥20 billion to 30 billion (US$153 million to $230 million), with the global market estimated to reach US$172.5 billion in 2026.
Featured banner image credit: farmship.co.jp