20,000 Heads of Lettuce per Day
One of the largest vegetable factories in Japan © Spread Co. Ltd.
A leading vegetable factory in Japan is in Kameoka City, Kyoto. It is a four-story building, where four layers of shelves are built on each floor to grow lettuce. The total area of cultivation is 21,400 square meters. The factory ships about 20,000 heads of lettuce every day for sale at supermarkets and other stores. Since the building is four stories high, it can use the land very efficiently. Harvest per unit of space is 100 times greater than that of conventional ground farming.
Sixty people are working in this plant. People who grow vegetables are all dressed in clean, white work clothes and wear masks and white caps. Before they enter the area where vegetables are grown, they thoroughly disinfect their hands with alcohol and take an air shower so they do not bring into the production area diseases, insects, viruses or bacteria that will harm the vegetables. These workers look entirely different from farmers who grow vegetables on the ground. As the temperature, humidity, sunshine hours and water with nutrients are all controlled with computers, the factory looks like a plant that makes precision machinery or medicines rather than a farm.
|Taking an air shower before entering the area where vegetables are grown
© Spread Co. Ltd.
A grower checking how lettuce is growing
© Spread Co. Ltd.
Growing Vegetables in City Buildings
There are vegetable factories in many places in Japan, but the most unique location is the Showa Base at the South Pole, which Japan has built for polar observation. Built in 2008, it is small, but grows lettuce, basil and other vegetables, using mostly fluorescent lamps as a source of light. As the South Pole is a harsh environment, where the temperature sometimes drops to almost minus 40 C, meals eaten by observation team members had tended to be mostly freeze-dried or retort-packed food. The vegetable factory has made them very happy because they can now eat fresh vegetables all year round.
The headquarters building of a company in the center of Tokyo operating an in-house vegetable factory © Pasona Group Inc.
Vegetables grown in the hall on the first floor. Lighting is adjusted according to the speed of growth.
© Pasona Group Inc.
Meanwhile, there are companies growing vegetables in urban buildings. In a business district of Tokyo, a major company that dispatches temporary workers to businesses has built a vegetable factory in the company premises and supplies harvested vegetables to an employee cafeteria. Moreover, it grows lettuce and other vegetables on the first floor of the building and also in part of a conference room so visitors can see.
In addition, it grows cucumbers on the ceiling above the reception area and tomatoes on the ceiling of a reception room. Once, the company grew rice as an experiment. It proves that it is possible to grow plants in urban buildings if the vegetable factory technology is used.
Faced with an explosive population increase, many countries have to worry about their food supply. Against that background, vegetable factories in Japan receive an increasing number of visits and inquiries from overseas. The day appears near when Japan’s vegetable factory technology will contribute to solving the global problem of food shortage thanks to its advantages such as the absence of influence by the weather or environment and no soil pollution.
|Vegetable-growing facility on the wall of a conference room. Harvested vegetables are supplied to an employee cafeteria. © Pasona Group Inc.||
Tomatoes are grown on the ceiling of a reception room. © Pasona Group Inc.