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A One Hitachi approach

Owen Keates

Owen Keates is an Industry Partner at Hitachi Vantara Digital Solutions.

A chemical engineer by training, Owen works in the IoT practice with a focus on sustainable supply chains in the agri-food industry. We discussed digital solutions and the environmental impacts of agri-food systems.

What do you like most about working for Hitachi?

Many of my projects have involved innovation, so what I like most is the pioneering spirit that we are all able to be part of, and the co-creation of working with customers in a very close way.

Hitachi Vantara solutions for Banana Farming

Can you tell us about a recent project that has made a positive impact?

Up in the Great Barrier Reef catchment area, we were appointed technology partner by Horticulture Innovation Australia for a project funded by the Australian Government and industry bodies. Our task was to support farmers working in ecologically sensitive areas, to provide sensors to capture data to help them make operational decisions. Using Lumada as our IoT platform, we then apply edge computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning to enhance that decision support. We’ve been running this project for several years now and it’s producing a very positive effect across the various agri-food sectors.

We’ve been able to directly help these farmers mitigate negative environmental impacts. For example, we’ve identified certain areas where they can reduce fertiliser, and we’ve measured that there’s no residual nitrates leaching into any waterways.

We also optimise irrigation and the routing of farm vehicles in sensitive areas, minimise waste and provide information to help mitigate risk in the face of external threats such as logistics delays or extreme weather events, all of which has a positive impact on the environment.

Hitachi Vantara solutions for Banana Farming

What has been a highlight of your time at Hitachi?

This particular project — and the banana farm which was one of the participants — was showcased at COP26, the United Nations Climate Conference. It was great to present the work we’ve done using the Lumada platform, and the One Hitachi approach of the project. No individual division could have done this alone, it’s been a collaboration between Hitachi Australia, Hitachi High Tech America, our development team in Vietnam, Horticulture Innovation Australia and the farmers themselves. Showcasing the project in such a prestigious forum was certainly the highlight of my career at Hitachi.

What is your vision for the future impact of Hitachi in Australia?

My vision is for Hitachi in Australia to become a leader in sustainability and environmental work. We have a lot of capability across the different companies to make a big impact. We’ve already shown by working together we can be a lighthouse for some of these environmental projects and the learnings can be utilised across different industrial sectors. Already the work we’ve done in agri-food has been transferred across to mainstream manufacturing applications.

In New Zealand and Australia, we have unique areas of opportunity because of the mix of industrial and agri-food businesses, and the beautiful environments. Being able to leverage that and make a difference is my dream. And we certainly have the people, capability, and technology to make that happen.