Japan: Unused Tokyo tunnel gets new life as underground veggie farm

Conveyor manufacturer Itoh Denki and electronics maker Fujitsu have set up an automated underground vegetable farm in a disused utility tunnel in Chiba Prefecture, just east of the Japanese capital.

The hope is that, by 2020, the plant will be shipping 5,000 heads of lettuce and other produce a day.

The vegetables are grown into seedlings overground before being taken down to the facility on a conveyor belt. Once ready for shipment, they are brought back up, packed and shipped. Apart from the sowing and packing, every step of the process is automated.

Dubbed "Makuhari farm vechica," the facility occupies 4,000 sq. meters of space, 10 meters below ground. The two companies spent 100 million yen ($882,744) building the farm on space rented for 770 yen per square meter annually.

To begin with, the farm will pilot production of lettuce, baby leaf and edible flowers at two hundred units a day until October 2018. Once the cultivation environment and produce's safety are confirmed, the farm will increase production to 2,000 units a day by 2019 and start shipping.

Cultivation will start on a 30-meter line, which has a surface area of 120 sq. meters, and will be expanded gradually after the pilot study is complete. By the time mass production begins, the farm will stretch over 800 meters underground, occupying 3,600 sq. meters.

Read more at Nikkei Asian Review (Yasuteru Shimomura)

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