Conventional agriculture largely focuses on increasing productivity from a single crop, by plowing top soil, spreading fertilizer, and applying pesticides based on the characteristics of the crop. These practices damage ecosystems and cause other environmental problems. Masatoshi Funabashi, researcher at Sony Computer Science Laboratories (Sony CSL) and associate researcher at ISC-PIF, ,  has developed Synecoculture, which brings new life to an ecosystem without tilling, fertilization, or pesticides.

Synecoculture is a sustainable agricultural practice that balances productivity with the need to reduce environmental impact. It eliminates the need for plowing, fertilizing, and pesticide use that impact the environment, by taking maximum advantage of the material cycling that occurs naturally in ecosystems, aiming to create rich ecosystems with a diverse mix of plants that coexist together and grow lushly. Synecoculture requires vast knowledge of plant ecology, and for several years Sony CSL has been conducting tests at a number of farms, cultivating a blend of plants in order to collect data on plant compatibility and soil conditions. Sony CSL is also using IT to develop systems to support greater social ecological diversity including Synecoculture. The Synecoculture project is directly related to 11 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is registered as a good corporate practice with the Japan SDGs Action Platform promoted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

KeyWords

Synecoculture / Open Complex Systems / Ecology / Agriculture / Hunting-gathering / Citizen Science / Ecosystems Management / Interface / Long-tail / Self-organization / Ecological Optimum / Emergence / Niche Formation / Symbiotic Earth / Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) / Machine Learning / Artificial Intelligence / Augmented Reality / Megadiversity Management Systems (MMS)

References

[Movie] Renewing agriculture to rebuild a broken environment Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Inc.
[Movie] The Challenge to Global Agenda – Paradigm Shifts in Food Production and Agriculture-
[Website] Sony CSL Synecoculture project
[Publications] UniTwin UNESCO Complex Systems Digital Campus e-laboratory website
[Publication]Recent perspective paper from Nature Research
[Présentation en Français] Présentation de Synécoculture: Agriculture de Synthèse entre les Hommes et la Nature par Masatoshi FUNABASHI lors de l’openhouse de Sony CSL Paris, le 27 Octobre 2016
Masatoshi Funabashi

Masatoshi Funabashi

Sony CSL Researcher & Associate ISC-PIF Fellow

In 2010 at Sony CSL, I started a synecoculture project. Synecoculture is a new field of open systems science which integrates domains including ecology, physiology, information science, complex systems science, food science, environmental science and agriculture, and I have undertaken a host of measures to scientifically formalize and verify it. My main initiative has been a pilot project for the proof of concept both in Japan and Sub-Saharan Africa. Since a prime cause of environmental destruction has been small-scale farmers trading away biodiversity for productivity, we have shown that synecoculture has the potential to fundamentally solve that issue. It potentially allows for biodiversity on a scale never before possible in the history of agriculture, while also allowing for food production that restores the healthy functioning of ecosystems and promote human well-being.
Based on my experience in the field, I am designing a “megadiversity management system” which will offer support to primary industries that impact our natural environment and also to the systems of our societies. It aims to support a new agricultural revolution, one that makes use of information and communications technology (ICT) coupled with the diversity of living nature and our society. Through it, we intend to solve global issues related to the food we produce, the environments we live in, and our own health.

Kaiyuan Lin

Kaiyuan Lin

The university of Tokyo Ph.D. student & ISC-PIF visiting scholar

I am a research assistant in Dr. Funabashi’s project. The keywords for my research interests are traceability, fishery export, and value chain. I aim to design a decentralized framework for food value chain compliance. The supply chain should increase transparency and traceability for sustainable food production.