Key to Solving Food Shortage
The earth’s population, now seven billion, is said to exceed nine billion in 2050. Various problems need to be fixed to feed everyone. The conventional method of farming is influenced by weather, including hours of sunshine, temperature and rainfall. This method grows plants, which have their roots deep in the ground, while protecting them from diseases and insects, but it is difficult to assure a stable food supply. Under these circumstances, many factories where vegetables are grown indoors without using soil have been built in Japan. Fresh vegetables grown in these factories are being consumed in homes and restaurants. They have many advantages. One is that they are grown without using agricultural chemicals such as pesticide. The Japanese technology is attracting attention from overseas as well.
Inside of the vegetable factories in Japan © Spread Co. Ltd.
Year-round Vegetable Production Possible
Vegetable factories are buildings in which they grow vegetables while artificially controlling the light, temperature, humidity and nutrients with computers. Some of them open their roofs to use natural sunlight, but what is attracting attention in Japan are those in which artificial lights, such as fluorescent lamps and light-emitting diodes (LEDs), are used instead of sunlight in a totally closed environment. Instead of soil, water in which nutrients are added is used to grow vegetables. As this method is not influenced by sunshine hours or temperature, it can grow plants all year round regardless of the season or location. Because vegetables are grown indoors, they are free from diseases, insects and weeds. So, a big advantage of this method is that it does not use agricultural chemicals and can produce vegetables safe to eat. Recently, studies are being made to grow more nutritious vegetables by, for example, controlling the wavelength of LED lighting.
At present, it is said that there are more than 30 vegetable factories in Japan which grow plants using only artificial lighting. Plans to build such factories are spreading very rapidly to many parts of the country.