World’s largest indoor farm in Japan is 100 times more productive than outdoor fields, uses 99% less water, 40% less power and creates 80% less food waste…
The statistics for this incredibly successful indoor farming endeavor in Japan are staggering: 25,000 square feet producing 10,000 heads of lettuce per day (100 times more per square foot than traditional methods) with 40% less power, 80% less food waste and 99% less water usage than outdoor fields. The productivity boost is a combination of faster grow times, year-round production, less space and less waste per crop.
It’s still more expensive to set up technologically, but it is major progress in LED growlamps and will grow more common as the technology and process keep improving. It’s becoming an industry that lets people grow produce year-round, anywhere there’s stable power.
A new facility using the same technologies is now under construction in Hong Kong, with Mongolia, Russia and mainland China on the agenda for subsequent near-future builds.
In the currently-completed setup, customized LED lighting developed with GE helps plants grow up to two and half times faster, one of the many innovations co-developed in this enterprise by Shigeharu Shimamura, the man who helped turn a former semiconductor factory into the planet’s biggest interior factory farm.
They have shortened the cycle of days and nights in this artificial environment, growing food faster, while optimizing temperature, lighting and humidity and maximizing vertical square footage in this vast interior space (about half the size of a football field). No water is lost to soil and a core-less lettuce variant reduces waste.
The process is already “half automated. Machines do some work, but the picking part is done manually. In the future, though, I expect an emergence of harvesting robots. For example, a robot that can transplant seedlings, or for cutting and harvesting, or transporting harvested produce to be packaged.”
Shimamura looks to future improvements and expansions: “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. 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.”
This solution can be deployed anywhere in the world to address food shortages of the present and future. Indoor vertical farms are also good for local food production in crowded and high-cost urban areas around the globe. All the waste and power reduction make these farms far more sustainable and cost-efficient.
Ultimately, the goal is to put these farms in areas where resources or space are scarce and where weather is problematic, from developing countries to developed cities.
If you’re interested enough to check out a podcast, an excellent jumping off point are episodes 4, 5 and 6 of Urban Agriculture, which is done by a couple of PhD biologists better known for This Week in Virology. –Cantordammerung
Courtesy of Web Urbanist