June 28, 2022
Support for productivity improvement and logistics kaizen at a flower farm in Rwanda
The JICA Private Sector Partnership Program SME/SDGs Business Support Project Application Examples
The Frontier Research Center of Toyota Motor Corporation (Toyota), in cooperation with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Drone Japan Corporation, ACSL Corporation, and Carnegie Mellon University Africa tried to improve the productivity of high value-added agricultural products and improve logistics in the sub-Saharan region of Rwanda as part of efforts to alleviate poverty from 2019 to 2021*1,*2. The main initiatives are as follows.
- 1. Productivity Improvement: Drones Japan's ground-based drones were used to photograph the growth of gentian plants grown for export at a Rwandan flower farm. Drones Japan members in Japan used AI image recognition to detect abnormal growth and predicted quality at the time of harvest based on the photographed data.
- 2. Logistics Kaizen: Based on the above forecast of quality at the time of harvest, Drone Japan asked staff in Rwanda to harvest the flowers. The local staff loaded the harvested flowers onto ACSL's flying drones. The drone autonomously transported the flowers to a warehouse on the farm (approx. 300 meters).
Since Toyota had no technology that could be used immediately and no knowledge of agriculture or drone regulations in Rwanda, we applied for and were selected for JICA's private-sector partnership project. Toyota also worked with Carnegie Mellon University Africa to coordinate with local regulatory authorities on drone imports and flights, and conducted a survey on the acceptability of drones carrying flowers and plants flying autonomously in the surrounding communities.
Although the situation had changed dramatically from the initial planning of the project, due to a local lockdown due to COVID-19, we were able to fully realize the potential of improving productivity through AI image recognition and improving logistics using drones in an-IT-based-nation Rwanda. We were also able to discover new challenges in localization through this project. I am very glad to hear that gentian harvested in Rwanda is being sold at the flower market in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, leading to increased profits for Rwandan flower farms. This time, we brought technology and know-how from Japan, but we believe that if local universities and startups can create a better system in Rwanda through this JICA project, it will contribute to the transfer of technology to neighboring countries, which is what the Rwandan government is hoping for.
- Contract was scheduled to run through 2020, but extended through 2021 due to COVID-19.
- SDGs Business Verification Survey with the Private Sector for Increasing Added Value for Agriculture Utilizing Drones.
Kiichiro Katsumata, President and COO of Drone Japan (left) and Shungo Harada, Managing Director of Bloom Hills Rwanda Ltd. (right) Bloom Hills Rwanda is a startup aiming to export flowers in Rwanda.
Joined Toyota in 1991. Graduated from the Faculty of Economics. Since joining the company, he has been engaged in research, liaison, and corporate planning. He has already traveled to Rwanda more than 10 times.