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Fruit and Vegetables Grown Under Office Building (March 17, 2005)

The underground farm
(Pasona O2)
An underground rice and vegetable field has been planted beneath an office building in Tokyo's Otemachi business district. This urban farm - in what used to be the vault of a major bank - is maintained using computer-controlled artificial light and temperature management. It was brought into being by a personnel company as a means of providing agricultural training to young people who are having trouble finding employment and middle-aged people in search of a second career.

New Use for Former Bank Vault
The hi-tech vegetable patch, called Pasona O2, is located in the Otemachi Nomura Building in the Tokyo district of Otemachi, where many major corporations have their headquarters. The building, which has 27 floors above ground and five below, used to be home to Tokyo Life Insurance and Resona Bank (formerly Daiwa Bank). But these firms have left, and office space in the building is now leased to several different companies. This project was launched by the temporary staffing agency Pasona Inc. When Pasona moved its headquarters to this building, it decided to lease the second basement floor - formerly the Resona Bank vault - and turn it into a vegetable garden.

In the absence of sunlight, the plants are sustained by artificial light from light-emitting diodes, metal halide lamps, and high-pressure sodium vapor lamps. The temperature of the room is controlled by computer, and the vegetables are grown by a pesticide-free method in which fertilizer and carbon dioxide are delivered by spraying. Hydroponics, in which plants are grown in water and hardly any soil is used, is one of the methods of cultivation used in the facility. Technical assistance in setting up the indoor farm was provided by Professor Masamoto Takatsuji of Tokai University, who is researching such projects, which are known as "plant factories."

The "field" has an area of about 1,000 square meters. Tomatoes, lettuces, strawberries, and other fruits and vegetables are grown, as well as flowers and herbs. There is also a terraced paddy field used to grow rice.

There are said to be about 15 fully computer-controlled "plant factories" nationwide. Most are located in suburban areas, though, and this is the first such endeavor to make use of a city-center building. The organizers hope that the first crops will be harvested in the early summer of 2005, and they will initially be used as ingredients in Pasona's canteen. By providing training to people interested in agriculture, the ultimate goal is to create job opportunities in the agricultural sector.

Tended by Aspiring Farmers
This urban agricultural training facility is tended by former freeters (young people who hop between part-time jobs) with an interest in farming. Through its Agriculture Internship Project in the village of Ogata, Akita Prefecture, Pasona, along with Kanto Employment Organization Inc, offered on-the-job training on a real farm. About 100 aspiring farmers, including young people and middle-aged businessmen, have already taken a course of agricultural training in Ogata.

The organizers also plan to keep the facility in Tokyo open to the public until 6 p.m. to enable businessmen and office workers to drop by and experience hi-tech farming on their way home from work.

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Copyright (c) 2005 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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