A Next-Generation Plant Factory from Yokohama

A dome-like establishment suddenly appeared last December near the Minatomirai line’s Bashamichi Station, on the patch of land that is a candidate for the Yokohama City government office’s new location. Because a circus had been set up there during the summer, it has been attracting a lot of attention with people speculating whether it might be for a new circus show or an indoor sports arena.

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The First Undertaking of its Kind in an Urban Area

This dome is actually an indoor plant factory. Yokohama City, a supporter of the growing farming industry, is utilizing the “company support for regional employment foundation (urgent job creation)” established as part of the nation’s 2012 economic policy amendment, to spearhead next-generation plant factory technology. Agricultural venture company Granpa Co., Ltd. (Naka-ku, Yokohama City) developed this plant factory.

This plant factory is a limited time project that will run until end of October this year, but there are plans to cultivate vegetables and conduct facility tours and other transmission of information during its run. The dome is six meters in height, 29 meters in diameter, and 574 square meters in area. The roof is covered by a fluorocarbon resin sheet. This size was determined by Granpa Co., Ltd. after extensive research on how to efficiently yield crops while maintaining a high safety standard. They do not plan to make anything larger.

 

What is the Large Dome that Suddenly Appeared on Bashamichi?

High Productivity and Safety that Stand Out

The interior of the dome is gently lit by the sunlight coming through the transparent fluorocarbon resin sheet, and is very bright. Humidity is set slightly above average. The interior environment is completely controlled by computer, with temperature, humidity, and even the wind circulation automatically controlled 24 hours a day to create the optimal environment for vegetables’ photosynthesis.

Inside there is a donut-shaped water tank that is 20 meters in diameter, and within the water tank are 14,250 cylinders to plant seedlings. The system is set up so that seedlings are planted in the cylinders, and over 40 to 50 days the plants develop and cylinders gradually transition from the inner to outer area of the ring. This report was conducted in late January and it had only been a few weeks since the first seedlings were planted so only about half of the tank was filled, but by the time the first planned harvest comes around in early March, the water tank should be filled with crops.

Common outdoor farming yields two harvests a year at most, but at this plant factory, an average of seven to eight harvests are possible annually. Seeding is staggered to every other day making a stable harvest possible, providing relatively fresh vegetables. Best of all, because the dome is covered, the crops are not vulnerable to damage by pests. Hence, they can be harvested without pesticides, making it possible to create safe crops.

 

Expected International Popularity

Currently, there are six types of vegetables that can be produced in the factory including frill lettuce, but they would like to expand their selection to include produce such as tomatoes.

As agriculture becomes internationalized, the environment surrounding Japanese agriculture is becoming increasingly competitive. Japanese farm produce are highly regarded around the world, but moving forward it is expected that not only the produce itself, but production methods such as the plant factory will generate recognition for the Japanese brand.

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