As Japan's farmers age, drones help with heavy lifting

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The next generation farmhand in Japan's aging rural heartland may be a drone. For several months, developers and farmers in northeast Japan have been testing a new drone that can hover above paddy fields and perform backbreaking tasks in a fraction of the time it takes for elderly farmers. "This is unprecedented high technology," said Isamu Sakakibara, a 69-year-old rice farmer in the Tome area, a region that has supplied rice to Tokyo since the 17th century. Developers of the new agricultural drone say it offers high-tech relief for rural communities facing a shortage of labor as young people leave for the cities. "As we face a shortage of next-generation farmers, it's our mission to come up with new ideas to raise productivity and farmers' income through the introduction of cutting-edge technologies such as drones," said Mr. Sakakibara, who is also the head of JA Miyagi Tome, the local agricultural cooperative. The drone can apply pesticides and fertilizer to a rice field in about 15 minutes – a job that takes more than an hour by hand and requires farmers to lug around heavy tanks.


Tech-savvy Chinese farmers use drones to spray pesticide

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Farmers in China have caught up with the country's booming drone trend and started using unmanned aircraft to spray pesticide onto the fields. Not only that, a team of villagers in central China recently bought 30 of these bug-zapping vehicles in hope of turning it into a new business. Zhu Xiwang and his neighbours said they hoped their squad of agri-drones to could help them start a pest-killing service, according to Huanqiu.com, an affiliation to People's Daily Online. This £24.8K flat pack folding home takes just SIX HOURS to build Pictures show the 30 drones lining up on a field, ready to take off. The unmanned aircraft, known by its model name MG-1S, is produced by Shenzhen-based Da Jiang Innovation, one of the largest drone manufacturers in China.


News at a glance

Science

In science news around the world, research agencies announce a $50 million plan to study the Thwaites glacier in West Antarctica, which, if it collapses, could lead to a dramatic increase in sea level. A study of infants and toddlers in sub-Saharan Africa indicates that giving them prophylactic antibiotics could save tens of thousands of lives. The European Union expands a controversial ban of neonicotinoid pesticides, long under scrutiny for potentially harming pollinators. Marine seismologists decry a move by the U.S. National Science Foundation to sell its only ship capable of imaging geological structures below the sea floor, such as the boundaries between colliding tectonic plates that drive large earthquakes. KEK, the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization, in Tsukuba, Japan, opens its revamped particle collider, SuperKEKB; it will generate data about B mesons produced by collisions between electrons and positrons, which could help explain why the universe contains more matter than antimatter.


What Smart Cities Are Learning From Smart Farms

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Cities around the world are getting smarter. Already, street lights in places like San Diego are turning off, and conserving energy, when vehicles and pedestrians aren't around. Soon, connected garbage cans will tell waste haulers when they need to be emptied, optimizing collection routes. Smart buildings will notify maintenance staff of impending repair needs. And parking spots will find you, instead of the other way around.


Stocks tick higher in a quiet start; Apple is a bright spot

Los Angeles Times

U.S. stocks were slightly higher Wednesday morning as utility companies climbed. Energy companies were trading lower as the price of oil continued to slip. Stocks are at their lowest levels in two months after large losses in two of the last three days. The Dow Jones industrial average advanced 31 points, or 0.2%, to 18,097 as of 10:05 a.m. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 5 points, or 0.2%, to 2,132.