Under the streets of Tokyo, there is a hidden secret that most people would never imagine – and it’s delicious. It’s not an off-the-map soba shop or some tucked away sushi joint, but a farm. Tokyo Salad is the new underground agriculture experiment run by Tokyo Metro – the folks who manage the subway lines. The Metro launched the subterranean hydroponic farm this past January, and it is already providing greens and sprouts to local restaurants.
Hidden under Tokyo’s subway lines might be the most unlikely place you could imagine for a farm, but it works. Farmers don’t wear overalls here, though. They wear white lab coats and must pass through a hygienic “air shower” in order to enter the crop fields which, essentially, are rows of shelving units hooked up to a fancy irrigation system.
Similar to the underground farm in London, this one grows primarily lettuce and microgreens. Those are the easiest crops to grow in a closed hydroponic system without sunlight. Masahiko Kakutani, the main farmer at Tokyo Salad, told PRI about the farm’s offerings. “We’re currently growing romaine, red mustard, riccola, Lollo Rosso, endive, and chicory,” Kakutani said, which equates to six kinds of lettuce and four types of baby greens.
Without sunlight and soil, which ground-level plants use to create nutrients, crops in underground farms need to be supplemented. Kakutani explains that the farmers add zinc, phosphorous, potassium, and other secret ingredients to the water the plants are growing in. This way, the resulting produce is healthful and nutrient-rich, just as nature intended.