Looking to take a bite out of the Japanese food market, electronics giant Toshiba has announced plans to construct a vegetable production factory in the city of Yokosuka. The factory will use tightly controlled air and lighting systems to optimize conditions for indoor plant growth, the company expecting the resulting assortment of greens to yield JPY300 million (around US$3,000,000) in annual sales.
Construction of the plant is already underway, with Toshiba hoping to begin shipping products such as lettuce, baby leaf green, spinach and other vegetables as soon as July 2014. It is fitting the factory with fluorescent lighting along with an air conditioning system to keep constant temperature and moisture levels.
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Toshiba's factory will be isolated from the outside air, creating a close to sterile environment within its walls. This means there is no need for pesticides and should result in a longer shelf life, with the company planning to sell on the produce to supermarkets and restaurants as vegetables rich in polyphenols and vitamin C.
Factories of this type are common throughout Japan, a country which has relied heavily on agricultural imports to meet its food requirements. By artificially controlling the environment in these factories, it is possible to produce large quantities of vegetables with a more efficient use of land, power and nutrients. Like other approaches to farming being developed for high-density areas, these factories have the potential to help cater for the food production needs of growing urban populations.