High-rise indoor farms for vegetables are spreading across the world.
In a suburb of Kyoto in Japan, surrounded by technology companies and startups, Spread Co. is preparing to open the world’s largest automated leaf-vegetable factory. It’s the company’s second vertical farm and could mark a turning point for vertical farming -- bringing the cost low enough to compete with traditional farms on a large scale.
For decades, vertical farms that grow produce indoors without soil in stacked racks have been touted as a solution to rising food demand in the world’s expanding cities. The problem has always been reproducing the effect of natural rain, soil and sunshine at a cost that makes the crop competitive with traditional agriculture.
Spread is among a handful of commercial firms that claim to have cracked the problem with a mix of robotics, technology and scale.
Its new facility in Keihanna Science City, known as Japan’s Silicon Valley, will grow 30,000 heads of lettuce a day on racks under custom-designed LED lights. A sealed room protects the vegetables from pests, diseases and dirt. Temperature and humidity are optimized to speed growth of the greens, which are fed, tended and harvested by robots.
Inada won the Edison Award in 2016 for his vertical-farming system. He expects the new factory, called Techno Farm, to more than double the company’s output, generating 1 billion yen in sales a year from growing almost 11 million lettuces.
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