Updated on August 29, 2019

Developing the Environmental Technologies of the Future

Synecoculture

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. Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Inc. (Sony CSL) is testing applications for synecoculture, a sustainable agricultural practice that balances productivity with the need to reduce environmental impact. Synecoculture 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.

A synecoculture farm, where a diverse blend of useful plants is cultivated together
Elements of Synecoculture support system

Open Energy Systems

Although renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power generation have been attracting much attention in recent years, there are significant issues to overcome before thinly dispersed renewable energy can be utilized effectively. Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Inc. (Sony CSL) is conducting research on Open Energy Systems (OES), a whole new type of bottom-up, distributed electric power system, which mainly uses renewable energy sources. From fiscal 2013 to 2016, Sony CSL collaborated with the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) on a joint research project. The research was selected by the Okinawa Prefectural Government to be part of its subtropical and island energy infrastructure technology research subsidy program. Under the project, Sony CSL installed photovoltaic panels and energy storage systems at 19 faculty housing units on the OIST campus, and built a DC-based OES (DCOES) to interconnect the housing with DC power lines. The installation has been used to test automatic power exchange between the housing units since fiscal 2014. Since fiscal 2017, with support for energy infrastructure research that utilizes Okinawa Prefecture’s advanced technologies, Sony CSL has been conducting joint empirical studies with OIST and other organizations to further develop the DCOES system. The OES Project is directly related to seven out of the 17 SDGs, and is registered as a good corporate practice with the Japan SDGs Action Platform promoted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

The electric power interchange system automatically compensates for imbalances between power generation and electricity consumption across residences, which are interconnected by DC power lines and communication lines
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