April 7th 2021
Introduction of ADX Project 6: SkymatiX (Agriculture)
ASEAN-Japan collaborations on challenging DX projects
It was announced last October that 23 demonstration projects were selected as a first round of the Financial Support Program, which was designed to strengthen Asia Digital Transformation (ADX). AMEICC Secretariat is interviewing several Japanese companies selected for this program and SkymatiX, Inc., a comprehensive remote sensing startup established in 2016, is the sixth interviewee. The company aims to implement “Iroha”, a solution to raise agricultural productivity by analyzing the leaf-color of crops in Cambodia.
Interviewee: Mr. Yukimune Oji
from SkymatiX, Inc.
- Q :
- Why did you choose Cambodia?
- A :
- We chose Cambodia since our solution has a great potential to improve productivity in the country.
In Cambodia, agriculture is a key industry since it accounts for a large portion of GDP, and since it is less likely to get affected by external demand compared to other major industries such as tourism. In recent years, although Cambodia’s GDP continues to grow, the growth of the Cambodian agriculture is seeing a slow increase. This can be explained by the fact the industry has not been able to improve productivity. In particular, even though Cambodia is blessed with fertile land, the average productivity of rice farming is about 2.0-2.5t/ha (hectare), which is low compared to Japan and other countries with the average of 5.0-6.0t/ha.
Our solution was originally developed for Japanese rice farming to raise its productivity, and the same solution can be applied to Cambodian rice farming as well. Add to that, the average age of farmers in Cambodia is younger than in Japan, which means they are more familiar with digital tools.
- Q :
- Please tell us the detail of your plans in Cambodia.
- A :
We aim to provide a solution to raise agricultural productivity. Our clients for this demonstration project are Cambodian farmers and institutions supporting those farmers, such as agricultural cooperatives and financial institutions.
The solution called “Iroha” analyzes the leaf-color of crops using images of agricultural land which are taken by drones and uploaded to a cloud storage. “Iroha” will reduce costs and generate more profit by taking over some of the work the farmers currently handle, quickly assess the targeted agricultural land and prompt necessary actions. For example, at the moment, the farmers go around the agricultural land to check the status of crop growth and abnormalities of the land. With the implementation of “Iroha”, they will be able to check the size, quantity and quality of the crops in real-time, determine the best method / timing to fertilize and provide crop-dusting. It also analyzes leaf color to spot weeds and allows the farmers to calculate appropriate amount of herbicide.
In this project, not only local farmers but also agricultural cooperatives and financial institutions install “Iroha”, and our local partner, JC Agricultural Cooperatives Co., Ltd. (JCAC) will provide trainings on drone operation as well as farming to support the implementation of “Iroha”. Through this process, we are going to examine potential increase in crop yield amount and potential improvement of efficiency in the production management of the local farmers. We also plan to look into customization options required for “Iroha” to better serve Cambodia.
Overview of the solution “Iroha”
- Q :
- What are the innovative features and uniqueness of these solutions?
- A :
- The combination of cutting-edge technologies is something new. Up till now, none of the companies in Cambodia provided solutions that combine the technology to link information of agricultural land (GPS) and technology to analyze images of those agricultural land (image analysis).
Another selling point of our solution is that it is easy to install. “Iroha” is one-size-fits-all solution, which can be used with any type of drones as long as those drone’s images have location information, so we plan to procure drones locally for this project, meaning in Cambodia. The operation of the drones is very easy. With about 3 hours of training, the users will have no issue setting up routes within an application and have the drones fly the pre-set routes automatically.
Last but not least, this business structures will not be affected by the current COVID-19 crisis. JCAC uploads the image taken by drones, and we automatically analyze those images in Japan. This means the whole process can be completed remotely (i.e., communicating with local partner, etc.) and there’s no back-and-forth travel required to accomplish what needs to be done.
- Q :
- Why did you choose JC Agricultural Cooperatives Co., Ltd (JCAC) as a partner for this project?
- A :
- With more than 10 years of agricultural business experience in Cambodia, JCAC has built close relationships with the local stakeholders involved in agriculture. They were in charge of the production, sales and export of rice in 230 ha rice fields in Battambang Municipality, northwestern part of Cambodia, from 2009 to 2014. Since 2014, the company has been selling agricultural machinery and materials to local farmers (mainly to rice growers). They also founded a microfinance institution in 2018 for local farmers in cooperation with Japanese investors, which strengthened their relationships with the local farmers as well as institutions supporting those farmers. On top of that, JCAC participated in bilateral discussion with Cambodia on food value chains held by Japanese and Cambodian ministries of agriculture as a representative of Japanese local agricultural companies and made connections with Cambodian local government.
We entrusted JCAC with a project to verify “Iroha” system implementation between 2018 and 2019, in which they did an incredible job with smooth communication. We feel that they are the perfect partner for this project.
Members from JC Agricultural Cooperatives Co., Ltd
provide trainings on drone operation as well as farming
Members from SkymatiX, Inc. and JC Agricultural Cooperatives Co., Ltd
- Q :After the success of this project, what are the next steps and future prospects?
- A :
- We aim to expand our business in Cambodia in collaboration with JCAC first, then we might consider establishing an operating company such as a branch or joint venture company in Cambodia. After that, we plan to introduce the same service to other ASEAN countries, advancing in rice farming such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand based on our experience in Cambodia as this solution could be easily implemented anywhere.
Comments from JC Agricultural Cooperatives Co., Ltd
My name is Honan Ko, born in 1974. I am the President CEO of JC Agricultural Cooperatives Co., Ltd. JCAC is a Japanese company with more than 10 years of traditional agricultural business experience in Cambodia, selling farming machinery, materials and offer financing services to the farmers. In addition to these long-established services, we also aim to spread smart agricultural solutions, developed in agriculturally advanced country, Japan, in Cambodia. We are lucky to partner up with SkymatiX, which is a leading company in the field of smart agriculture.
During 2018 to 2019, JCAC, as SkymatiX’s local partner, was entrusted with a project to verify the potential opportunities in regards to introducing “Iroha” in Cambodia, and received positive feedback. We expect to accelerate the commercialization of “Iroha” with further verification covering more farms during this ADX demonstration project.
We strongly believe that the implementation of SkymatiX solution has a great potential to increase productivity and efficiency of agriculture in Cambodia, where the average productivity of rice farming is about 2.0-2.5t/ha, which is low compared to Japan and other countries with the average of 5.0-6.0t /ha.
As a local partner to promote digital transformation of Cambodian agriculture, we will work closely with SkymatiX in this demonstration project (conduct demonstration flights of drones, promote the sales of “Iroha” in the local market etc.).
Comments from Mr. Chhat Chho, local farmer
I was surprised when I saw the images taken by a drone since I had never seen my lands from above. The lands look completely different from how I usually see them from the side. I am very optimistic and excited about the idea of “Iroha”, which enables us to check the status of my lands and find out the appropriate timing to fertilize and harvest the crops. I am a little nervous about operating a drone myself, so it would be great if we can get a service, like JCAC, where they can fly the drone on our behalf.