inaho was founded in Kamakura, Japan in 2017 by CEO Yutaka Hishiki and COO Sohya Ohyama. Mr. Hishiki focused on following trends in AI and was inspired to create a harvesting robot, while Mr. Ohyama brought a background of value optimization and team building. inaho’s mission is to “make farming more sustainable” as Yu shared, as well as to help with the current labour shortage in the agricultural industry. Labour shortage in the industry is a worldwide problem and a growing concern in Japan with 68 as the average age of farmers in 2020. Research published in the OECD Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Working Papers shows similar concerns in the Netherlands, with large increases in vacancy rates of Dutch agricultural jobs. Yu posed the problem with these trends, asking “imagine after 10 years, what [will] happen?”
inaho’s solution is a fully automated harvesting robot, currently built to harvest snack tomatoes. Snack tomatoes were chosen because of their market value and the amount of labour required to harvest them. This is in addition to their Plant Phenotyping Robot for labs and researchers.
inaho’s harvesting robot is currently being tested with Dutch growers in Westland and inaho hopes to have their robot fully on the market by the end of 2024.
The feedback gained from growers such as Nick Duijvestijn (Kwekerij Duijvestijn) and Ferry Adegeest (TVA Growers) has been invaluable.
inaho’s location in Zuid-Holland, their first international office, allows them to tap into a vast network of growers and other horticulture professionals, as well as access to facilities such as Tomatoworld and World Horti Centre. One of their biggest challenges has been a negative perception around robotics for harvesting. Dutch growers are advanced and privy to new cutting edge technology so various growers have tried robots in the past. These past attempts did not meet their expectations and in the small world of growers where news travels fast, many of them are wary of new robots in their greenhouses. Yu hope to quickly change their mind after trialling inaho’s harvesting robot.
Currently a small team, with only Yu working outside of Japan with 10 employees at their Kamakura headquarters, inaho hopes to grow quickly in the coming years. inaho will look to hire Dutch sales staff as well as software and hardware engineers for their robot. Their production and development is currently in Japan, but Yu expects as sales volumes increase to move production locally to the Netherlands, for which they will soon actively be looking for partners. In the near future, inaho would also like to branch out to develop other harvesting robots for crops like cucumbers, improving sustainable farming and helping labour issues throughout the horticulture industry.
Yu pointed to events like Robocrops organised by the regional economic development agency InnovationQuarter as opportunities for them to gain insights into the industry and meet potential partners and customers. Initiatives like Robocrops help facilitate inaho’s current goal to meet more growers, allowing them to showcase their technology and hopefully make a large impact in the industry.
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