Climate change has forced farmers to think outside the box in order to sustain their practice. With the global population hitting an all-time high and droughts plaguing fertile regions, it’s not easy to meet the growing demand for vegetables. As a solution, a Japanese firm decided to take farming indoors, where conditions can be controlled and optimized.
You’ve probably heard of indoor growing (or even tried it in your closet), but you’ve never seen it on this level. Built by Mirai Co. and GE Japan, the facility is about half the size of a football field. Over 17,500 LED lights nurture the plants inside the farm. Racks are stacked vertically, allowing scientists to save space while maximizing every inch and corner of the area.
10,000 Lettuce Heads Produced Daily
Impressively, the facility was not built from the ground up. It used to be a Sony Corporation semiconductor factory located in Miyagi Prefecture. For those who love following weather patterns, this is the same region that was hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami combo back in 2011. The catastrophe wiped out most of the area’s infrastructure, and it was only recently that local residents recovered from the tragedy. The group completed the initial phase of converting the facility into a farm last year and never looked back. With operations in full swing, the project now produces a whopping 10,000 lettuce heads per day!
The conditions inside the farm encourage the plants to thrive naturally. Researchers control all aspects of the environment, from light and humidity to temperature and irrigation. As a result, vegetation grows up to 2.5 times faster. Less water is also required to keep the plants alive because the air quality is optimized for photosynthesis.
What about seasons? Well, seasons don’t exist in the farm, which means you could grow any crop you want without worrying about sunlight exposure and deadly blizzards. This method of farming would do well in virtually any part of the world. Scientists could turn any inhabitable, barren region, like deserts and wastelands, into a colossal growing powerhouse.
Cities could also benefit from such facilities, with space being one of the biggest issues in highly populated urban areas. Moreover, farming inside a city could drive down costs for produce significantly. Deliveries would not have to come from far-flung farms in the middle of nowhere. Groceries, markets and restaurants could have access to fresh vegetables 24/7.
The Future of Indoor Growing
“I believe that, at least technically, we can produce almost any kind of plant in a factory. But what makes most economic sense is to produce fast-growing vegetables that can be sent to the market quickly,” said Shigeharu Shimamura, CEO of Mirai Co. “That means leaf vegetables for us now. In the future, though, we would like to expand to a wider variety of produce. It’s not just vegetables we are thinking about, though. The factory can also produce medicinal plants. I believe that there is a very good possibility we will be involved in a variety of products soon.”