Greenhouses or Plantfactories

OZUWhile i am writing most of the time about greenhouses and production systems this is the first time writing about plant production factory.

No bugs, no dirt, no mess: At an Ozu Corp. plant factory in Tokyo, vegetables thrive in a completely controlled, insect-free environment that ensures perfect growing conditions. Plant factories are expected to solve some of Japan’s agriculture needs in a country where the average farmer is 65 and only 5 percent are under 40.
While pests are a major problem for agriculture, they usually aren’t for the consumer who eats the products. That doesn’t mean that there are no potential problems with this food. One of the main problems is contamination with harmful bacteria, such as E. Coli, Salmonella or Listeria. This problem is potentially even worse in so-called organic foods because the organic protocols usually limit or totally exclude the use of disinfectants, such as the ubiquitous chlorine. And this is where the new Japanese vegetable factories come in.
The Daily Mail reports that in Japan, a whole new type of agriculture is being organized. No longer are vegetables planted in fields where they are subject to unpredictable weather, pests and contamination. No, they are now cultivated in factories.

These are not your usual run-of-the-mill dirty and noisy factories. They are rather more like the clean rooms in the factories where computer chips or pharmaceuticals are made. Everything is controlled in these factories: lighting, temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide and water. The plants are not even exposed to the air outside, nor are they exposed to any dirt or insects. These factories, such as the Ozu Corporation in Tokyo, claim to be able to meet the demands of consumers who want safe foods. Hydroponics, a series of techniques to cultivate plants without soil, only water and mineral nutrients, is well known to produce very clean, pure produce without the need for pesticides of any kind.
This newer form of agriculture takes the hydroponics idea even further by producing produce that is as close to sterile -as in: free of bacterial contamination- as possible.
Sterility and total absence of pests and hence, pesticides, are important benefits not the least of which is that the end customer does not even have to wash the vegetables. They can be eaten as this. Another benefit is that production can continue 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. This vastly improves productivity. Lettuce, for example, can be cropped up to 20 times a year. Some factories produce up to 3 million vegetables a year.
The creators of these plant factories think that they do not only produce perfect looking vegetables that are completely free of contamination, but that this could well be the future of food.
Japan – Japanese scientists developed a new way of cultivating vegetables in an environment perfectly controlled and sterilized. According to them, it seems that these “perfect” vegetables can be the food of tomorrow.

These plants vegetable crops are growing throughout the country and can produce lettuce 24 hours over 24, seven days a week and they are harvested up to 20 times per year. In all, some of these plants can produce 3 million of vegetables per year.

Every aspect of the environment of the plant is controlled from the light and temperature, through the humidity and watering. CO2 levels can be carefully modified. Inside the factory, producers wear gloves, masks and protective combination, as is typically found in chemical plants.

Crops can be contaminated either by dust, or by insects or by air. In this sterile environment, no pesticide is needed. Japanese consumers can eat the vegetables on sale in early in safety and without washing.

The Japanese government, concerned about the use of chemicals on crops, has encouraged the growth of vegetable plants. A spokesperson for one of them, Ozu Corporation in Tokyo, said: “A stable is guaranteed all year through control of light, temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide . This meets the demand of consumers seeking healthy foods. “

These plants will soon relocate to the United Kingdom, where there are already many cultures out-ground. Each year, millions of hydroponic tomatoes are grown in huge greenhouses in southern England.

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They look more like the brightly lit shelves of a chemists shop than the rows of a vegetable garden.

But according to their creators, these perfect looking vegetables could be the future of food.

In a perfectly controlled and totally sterile environment – uncontaminated by dirt, insects or fresh air – Japanese scientists are developing a new way of growing vegetables.

Called plant factories, these anonymous looking warehouses have sprung up across the country and can churn out immaculate looking lettuces and green leaves 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Every part of the plant’s environment is controlled – from the lighting and temperature, to the humidity and water. Even the levels of carbon dioxide can be minutely altered.

Rather than the conventional scruffy clothes and dirty fingernails of vegetable growers, the producers wear gloves, surgical masks and sort of dust proof protective suits normally seen in chemical plants.

The vegetables from plant factories – which include green leaf, romaine lettuce and garland chrysanthemum – are sold at a premium to Japanese shoppers. No pesticides are used – and there is no risk of contamination with food poisoning bugs.

Because the plants are grown in a clean room, they can be eaten safely without washing. Lettuce grown in the factories can be cropped up to 20 times a year.

Some factories are vast – and can produce three million vegetables a year.

The results are hygienic, but it’s about as far from real food as you can possibly get.
The spread of plant factories has been encouraged by the Japanese government amid concerns about the use of chemicals in vegetables.

A spokesman for the Ozu Corporation factory in Tokyo said: ‘Vegetables are produced in the factory without being exposed to the air outside.

‘Stable production is guaranteed throughout the year by controlling lighting, temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide and water. They can also meet the demands of consumers who want safe foods.’

Plant factories have yet to arrive in the UK. The closest Britain has are the vast greenhouses in the south of England where millions of tomatoes are grown hydroponically – without soil.

Eco Factor: Food factories produce 24 hours

With the land available for farming depleting quickly, inventors have started to look toward possibilities that allow farming practices that are not dependent on the climate or the season. While greenhouses are not a new concept, some scientists in Japan are trying to refine the concept and design plant factories, which can be used to produce organic vegetables 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

The plant factories make use of systems that control the interior temperature, lighting, humidity, water and carbon dioxide and alter them precisely to aid vegetable growth. The plantations are shielded from outside air and the producers wear protective suits normally seen in chemical plants while they are on the premises.

The sterile environment means that the producers don’t need fertilizers and pesticides to prevent plants from being destroyed by insects. Ozu Corporation, the creators of plant factories in Tokyo, states that the vegetables are so pure that they can be consumed without washing. The factories are so efficient that lettuce grown in them can be cropped up to 20 times a year. The vegetables that are grown in these plant factories are solar at a premium to Japanese consumers.

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Erik van Berkum

Erik is a Dutchman currently living in Osaka Japan.

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