Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Get HideMyAss! VPN, PC Mag's Top 10 VPNs of 2016 for 55% off for a Limited Time ×
Hardware Hacking Japan Network Open Source

Sensor Network Makes Life Easier For Japan's Aging Rice Farmers 91

szczys writes: The average age of Japan's rice farmers is 65-70 years old. The work is difficult and even small changes to the way things are done can have a profound impact on these lives. The flooded paddies where the rice is grown must maintain a consistent water level, which means farmers must regularly traverse the terraced fields to check many different paddies. A simple sensor board is changing this, letting farmers check their fields by phone instead of in person.

This might not sound like much, but reducing the number of times someone needs to walk the fields has a big effect on the man-hours spent on each crop. The system, called TechRice, is inexpensive and the nodes recharge batteries from a solar cell. The data is aggregated on the Internet and can be presented as a webpage, a text-message interface, or any other reporting scheme imaginable by utilizing the API of the Open Source software. This is a testament to the power we have as small groups of engineers to improve the world.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Sensor Network Makes Life Easier For Japan's Aging Rice Farmers

Comments Filter:
  • Labor reduction (Score:4, Informative)

    by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Monday October 05, 2015 @02:01PM (#50663161) Journal

    Fewer man-hours, more rice from less work, fewer farmers, less time spent working, less paid in wages, more produced, cheaper rice.

    We still have people claiming value and wealth come from land, not from labor. Marx claimed more labor to produce a product meant more value and thus more wealth; I've outright demonstrated wealth comes from reducing labor spent on producing goods.

    Then again, I abandoned theories of value when I started making my economic theories; I'm writing a theory of *wealth*, not an explanation of how something's inherent price comes along. Value was always a stupid idea with no place in macroeconomics.

    • Fewer man-hours, more rice from less work, fewer farmers, less time spent working, less paid in wages, more produced, cheaper rice.

      The way to get cheaper rice is for Japan to ratify TPP, kick these farmers off the dole, and buy rice from Thailand or Louisiana for a tenth the price.

      We still have people claiming value and wealth come from land, not from labor.

      In this case, it comes from neither. I comes from massive subsidies, tariffs, and artificial price supports.

      • Re:Labor reduction (Score:4, Interesting)

        by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Monday October 05, 2015 @02:55PM (#50663659) Journal

        The way to get cheaper rice is for Japan to ratify TPP, kick these farmers off the dole, and buy rice from Thailand or Louisiana for a tenth the price.

        Labor may be overpriced; but you can't reduce costs by just reducing labor price. That's a large and important part of my economic theories--it's why I argue for a Citizen's Dividend to replace minimum wage (and our current welfare system), and why a progressive tax system is good--but the primary mechanism of improving wealth is decreasing labor invested in producing goods. Hunter-gatherers could only provide enough food to sustain, at an optimistic estimate, 136 million humans on earth, at a cost of 15-20 labor-hours per day per human fed; now we sustain 7 billion humans, at a labor cost of 27 labor-hours per YEAR per human fed.

        In this case, it comes from neither. I comes from massive subsidies, tariffs, and artificial price supports.

        That's mercantilism and protectionism, and it actually reduces wealth.

        • Other anthropologists claim they worked much less, as little as 2 hours per day "oh woe the modern worker".

          In any case, their nutrition was vastly low, as much larger humans grew with farming, and much larger still with a free economy that choked aisles with cheap food. So I am not sure how well their lighter workday was for them. And forget tv and phones and modern medicine.

          • You're right; I keep quoting that per day, but it's per week. 15-20 hours per week. Sahlin and Richard Borshay Lee did studies on modern hunter-gatherer societies to refine their historical projections. It's around 4-6 hours per day.

            The USDA Census from 2012 shows 3,233,358 farm operators in the USA. With a US population of 314,100,000 and an agricultural work week of 50 hours, that's approximately 27 working hours per person per year. The fifteen hours of food acquisition per person would total 245 b

        • Labor may be overpriced; but you can't reduce costs by just reducing labor price.

          This is not just (or even mostly) about unit labor costs. Rice farming in Japan is incredibly inefficient. Japan does not have a good climate for growing rice. It is too cold, and the rains come at the wrong time. Land ownership is highly fragmented, so you see tiny little plots, far too small for normal farm machinery. So instead you see a 70 year old with a roto-tiller preparing his plot, and then later stooped over, planting individual plants by hand. In a first world country, that is an insane was

          • This is not just (or even mostly) about unit labor costs. Rice farming in Japan is incredibly inefficient.

            That's labor costs per unit. That's exactly what I said.

            In a good climate with good soil, you may produce 6 tonnes per hectare of rice using a total 10,000 labor-hours. In a bad climate with bad soil, you may produce 2 tonnes per hectare of rice using a total 40,000 labor-hours. That means 1/3 as much rice, 4 times as much labor, 12 times as much labor per unit of rice produced. That labor includes agricultural workers, fertilizer manufacture, water treatment and transport for irrigation, power genera

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Fewer man-hours, more rice from less work, fewer farmers, less time spent working, less paid in wages, more produced, cheaper rice.

        The way to get cheaper rice is for Japan to ratify TPP, kick these farmers off the dole, and buy rice from Thailand or Louisiana for a tenth the price.

        Is this before or after the US stops subsidizing corn, cotton, wheat, and rice?

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agricultural_subsidy#United_States

        Ditto for Thailand:
        * http://thediplomat.com/tag/thailand-rice-subsidies/
        * http://www.ibtimes.com/thailand-rice-subsidy-scheme-what-it-how-it-toppled-thai-leader-yingluck-shinawatra-1792788

        Perhaps the TPP should have looked at ending subsidies.

        Canada got/gets a lot of flak for its supply-side management scheme, which sets production quotas, but it's one of the few cou

      • "The way to get cheaper rice is for Japan to ratify TPP, kick these farmers off the dole, and buy rice from Thailand or Louisiana for a tenth the price."

        While it's true that Japanese rice is massively subsidized so that a small number of "medallion farmers" can continue selling it in an artificially controlled domestic monopoly that keeps low-cost competition out, this technology is applicable to any reasonably civilized country that grows rice, lowering the cost of production there.

        It's bad enough that thi

      • Except this doesn't solve the other issue which is Japan wants to have, as much as is possible, the ability to feed its population from domestic food sources.

      • Modern Japanese consumers refuse to eat rice from Thailand. They *may* eat rice imported from the US if it is the variety grown in Japan and tastes the same. There was a big shortage in the 90s and they tried importing Thai rice. Very few ate it. The variety is completely different and tastes completely different, and therefore is not seen as being "rice" by the typical housewife.

        Certainly, there is need for reform, but this situation is a bit more complicated than you think. TPP passed anyway, though, so w

    • by MarkvW ( 1037596 )

      Wealth comes from a lot of things.

    • I'm writing a theory of *wealth*

      Is it called On the Wealth of Nations?

      • I was going to call it that, but the name was taken. Due to the principle of short names (shorter-named papers get more attention and generally draw more credibility), I titled it, "The Growth of Wealth", with the subheading, "A Treatise on the Origins and Development of the Wealth of Nations."

    • by bjwest ( 14070 )
      Is cheaper rice really a good thing though? What good is $1/lb rice over $3/lb rice when we have to spend an extra $8/lb to cover the social welfare costs so the farmers who formally grew the rice can afford to purchase that rice to feed their family?
      • What good is $1/lb rice over $3/lb rice when we have to spend an extra $8/lb to cover the social welfare costs so the farmers who formally grew the rice can afford to purchase that rice to feed their family?

        You're making a false dichotomy. Go back to colonial America--yes, that recent--and even England had no notable welfare system. England implemented old-age pensions and unemployment insurance before the United States, and unemployment insurance was hotly debated because of expense--with people citing old-age pensions as having worked out fine in support; now unemployment insurance is ... a tiny, tiny thing. Why do you think that is?

        Our social welfare systems in America cost 1.5% of taxed AGI back in 1

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Monday October 05, 2015 @02:05PM (#50663199)

    improve the world by gutting jobs?

    What happens when people have to start taking food from the farm to feed there family?

    • improve the world by gutting jobs?

      Prosperity comes from the production of goods and services, not by "keeping people busy". Japan has a declining population and serious labor shortages. Labor intensive rice farming in Japan makes no economic sense, and is only kept going with massive subsidies funded by taxing the productive economy.

      The automation and sensors described in TFA are also stupid, since they just make a stupid system slightly less so. A far better solution would be for Japan to buy rice from countries with lower labor costs a

      • japan has universal health care

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          I'm completely and totally baffled - to the point of commenting.

          I mean, yes, Japan has universal health care. That's true. Is this the only fact you know about Japan or something? I guess my point is that I'm not seeing what their health care system has to do with the comments made by the parent poster. You might well have just said that, "Japan is an island nation near China."

          Maybe I am missing something? If so then please enlighten me. Perhaps it's a koan and I need to meditate on it.

      • The problem remains the same. You still need workers to work the trees, and most young Japanese don't want to do that they want to work and raise their kids in the city.

      • That's what you get for an engineered demographic collapse.

      • From a food security standpoint, gutting domestic production and buying exclusively from foreign countries is about the stupidest thing you could do, but It's easy to suggest by those who live in the US or Europe, areas that produce more food than they need.

    • Originally, the earth could support fewer than 136 million humans. We were working 15-20 hours per one person per day as hunter-gatherers, foraging food.

      Today, we work fewer than 27 hours per YEAR to obtain food for each one person. We produce more food on less land. In 1970, India produced 2 tonnes of rice per hectare at a price of $550/tonne, scaling to over $3,000/tonne by inflation in 2001; in 1995, India was producing 6 tonnes of rice per hectare, and by 2001 the rice commanded a price of under $2

    • You don't understand the situation here, and as someone who has visited the very rice fields this device is used in, I can tell you I've see this first hand. Japan is suffering a crisis right now where young Japanese want to live and work in the city. It is to the point where some small towns will give away houses to young families willing to come to the country side to live and work. There are job opportunities, but no one to fill them. A single person is doing the work of many. Not only are they doi

      • It is to the point where some small towns will give away houses to young families willing to come to the country side to live and work.

        Apropos of nothing, I would be totally down with filling one of those slots... but I suspect that as a gaijin, that ain't gonna happen anytime soon.

        • You'd be surprised. Currently in the area around HackerFarm there are a few gaijin tech workers that work from home that have moved to there, and many of them help in the rice fields part time. If you have a valid means to get a visa then it wouldn't be hard for you to get involved.

        • I'll second the other reply to your comment. If you are actually interested in committing to growing rice, most rural areas would welcome you. It's a lot of work, and it's a serious commitment, so it's not for everyone, but if you have independent income (or are self employed and can work remotely), then it's an interesting lifestyle to try.

          The locals, particularly the older farmers, have mostly come to terms with the fact that their way of life is dying, so even complete outsiders willing to carry on the t

    • If reduction in labor required for agricultural production could cause economic collapse, it would have happened by now since most of the reduction has already occurred.

  • If only the Khmer Rouge had this tech...

  • by sideslash ( 1865434 ) on Monday October 05, 2015 @02:06PM (#50663215)
    Who is likely to live longer? A farmer who trudges out in the elements every day and works hard to keep his operation going, or a computer operator who sits in a chair and has so many things automated that there's almost nothing remaining that requires significant manual effort?

    The way the summary is written shows some laughably naive understandings of human longevity. Farming is one of the most dangerous occupations, but I assure you that the aspects of hard work and being toughened by the elements are NOT bad for you, generally speaking.
    • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Monday October 05, 2015 @02:20PM (#50663353) Homepage
      People who are active in their later years are more likely to live longer. My father retired to a trailer park. He helped a neighbor save money on county dumping fees by breaking down old vending machines, recycling the metals and cleaning up the wood. He gave the wood to a neighbor who built chicken coops for sale. He made $50 per month from the metals he took to the recycling center. That lasted several years until someone complained to the county and a county inspector declared that he was running an illegal recycling operation. He died about six months later, having nothing better to do.
      • Good on your dad for his initiative, and boo to overzealous bureaucrats.
        • by creimer ( 824291 )
          Overzealous bureaucrats have their place. I'm more pissed off at the busybody who filed an anonymous complaint, ruining a good thing that benefited the neighbors.
      • My grandmother lived to be 102, and all she did in her later years was sit on her butt and post anecdotes to Internet forums.

        • by sideslash ( 1865434 ) on Monday October 05, 2015 @02:53PM (#50663643)
          I told my mom once about a recently deceased centenarian in the news who had boasted about eating chocolate every day. Mom retorted, "Well, if she didn't eat it, she might have lived even longer." Moral of the story: you can never win an argument with your mom.
        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          WOOHOO!!! I'm going to live forever!

          • by creimer ( 824291 )
            You may very well live longer. Are you planning to live longer? Most people aren't planning to live longer than their parents and they don't have the resources to live such a long life.
            • by KGIII ( 973947 )

              I was very fortunate and sold my business after the growth and maturation of said business so I could, quite easily, fund a number of lives. In fact, with investing, I make more now than I ever did and I only invest as a hobby or have a financial manager who invests my real asset portfolio for me. I do pretty well at it, too. The funny part is that I haven't a clue what I'm doing. For instance, I bought 2000 shares of Tesla when they were 1/10 their current value. (I just spend a lot of time reading and loo

    • >The way the summary is written shows some laughably naive understandings of human longevity. For starters, yes, I agree. It seems more like a kickstarter pitch rather than a way to help anyone in general.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Japan's farmers are old because Japan is a segregated society. Farmers, fishermen, and other manual laborers who's professions are considered 'unclean' are a subclass heavily discriminated against. (Don't believe me? Remember that story about google pulling historic maps so people could not look up and see if your ancestors were in the wrong profession so you could be shitlisted)

      Nobody in their right fucking mind goes in to a profession like that so the youth don't replenish the workforce. It's literally be

      • by JanneM ( 7445 )

        Japan's farmers are old because Japan is a segregated society. Farmers, fishermen, and other manual laborers who's professions are considered 'unclean' are a subclass heavily discriminated against.

        No. You're confusing manual labour - well respected, fishermen and farmers especially - with "burakumin", the old class of people that did work forbidden by buddhism, such as butchering, leather tanning and so on.

        Discrimination of burakumin still exists, but mostly among the kind of people that worry their daughte

    • You are missing the point, though granted that is because the summary does not explain the full situation.

      This tech is not so the farmers will say healthy longer or live longer. Farmers in Japan are old. The reason they're still farming at age 70 for instance is because their sons, who traditionally would have taken over the farm years ago, have moved into the city to take an office job and are never coming back. Certainly some are glad to have something to do and will smile and tell you they plan on doing

    • For some people farm work keeps them healthy. My father worked full time driving tractors until he was 80. I did not inherit those genes and by the time I turned 56 my rotator cuffs were both torn and a few hours of driving would leave me in tears. I also lost use of my left hand and had to take SS disability.

      I wouldn't trade glorious years of working outdoors for anything. I still live on the edge of one of fields I used to plow and it about kills me that I can't climb back in one of those big John Deere's

  • the BIG question is
    How much will there ISP / telecom charge for the wireless data plan needed ???
    1 months wages ?
    2 months wages ?
    3 months wages ?
    ????

  • >this is a testament to the power we have as small groups of engineers to improve the world.

    Why did you have to ruin your post with that kind of aggrandizement? Such a sweeping statement is pointless and by now you should know that doing good doesn't mean you need to crow about your deeds as part of the process.
    • by narcc ( 412956 )

      What's wrong with that? Very often, simple technical solutions can have a profound impact.

      doing good doesn't mean you need to crow about your deeds as part of the process.

      I don't read this as bragging. I read this as an inspirational message -- you can impact the world in a positive way. You don't need to make some revolutionary discovery or technology, just a few dedicated people with the right skills can make a big difference.

      I also see a charge implied here: "Now go and change the world." I see nothing wrong with either of those things.

  • Well, that really does look cool, and one can see how it could be expanded to monitor other things.
    Their solution to power and networking also could be used for something like a webcam for increased flexibility.
    However, it looks like a variation of the "if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail" thought-process.

    If I were in the position of these farmers, I would prefer a drone to inspect the fields.
    With a human eyeball, you can spot the things that no one had thought would happen.
    A failed dr

  • Did it ever occur to you fat fucks designing the sensor that the reason these 65-70 year old men are maintaining many rice paddies is BECAUSE they walk them, instead of sitting on their ass and withering away.

    This is one of those 'inventions' that sound like a good idea until you look outside your tiny ass little scope. It reminds me of the idiots who thought you could lock the Japs up in camps and feed them bleached white rice all the time and nothing else for nutrition instead of whole rice which is actu

  • by Khyber ( 864651 ) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Monday October 05, 2015 @05:58PM (#50665157) Homepage Journal

    Toilets have held the answer for at least a century - float ball and fill valve. They don't require any specialized electronics, nor do they require power to run. Water levels get low enough, the float ball will trip the fill valve open and the paddy will get filled until the float ball raises up enough to close the fill valve.

    • You're forgetting:
      "We've always done it this way".
      and
      "Tradition. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as... as a fiddler on the roof!" -Tevye

Never invest your money in anything that eats or needs repainting. -- Billy Rose

Working...