Transforming urban farming with IoT to build self-sufficient communities
It has been a while since I met Takayoshi Serizawa, the founder of PLANTIO.
His company aims to “democratize food” by creating social communities engaged in urban farming (also known as micro-farming) via the Internet.
By using funds raised from crowdfunding, his company has successfully developed “grow CONNECT,” an IoT device equipped with multiple sensors that are necessary for growing vegetables. At the same time, it has built vegetable gardens on unused land on the roofs of buildings in cities (such as the Tokyu Land Corporation building in Ebisu in this case) by laying down soil (compost that is one-sixth the weight of regular soil) and surrounding it with wooden frames made from railway sleepers.
The IoT device “grow CONNECT” analyzes data from location information to the weather and soil conditions via AI and uses an app to constantly update users on the cultivation status of their crops, including when they should be watered or pruned.
The members can enter the building using a QR code on the app and use the agricultural equipment and fertilizers provided to work on the farm in their spare time. Some office workers even water the plants during their lunch break. The members collectively take care of the crops that have been planted on the farm, including carrots, kale, and many other vegetables. The farm has not been divided into separate plots for each person, and the sharing of the entire farm creates a genuine community.
The members are free to access the entire site, and they can even work on the farm while doing their office work from the terrace around the field. Those who have worked on the farm more will receive points from the rest, and they will get priority access to the harvested crops.
COVID-19 has increased the tendency for people to dine at home and the need to locally produce agricultural products for local consumption. Utilizing the roofs of buildings for urban farming can also reduce the heat island effect in the city, which kills two birds with one stone.
There is no doubt that Serizawa’s initiative will eventually expand to the rest of the world.
Agriculture has already become an important area that is taking advantage of the power of IT.
Companies offering unused land on their roofs (Tokyu Land Corporation, SELON INDUSTRY, Yasuda Real Estate, etc.)