Subterranean vegetable farms are cropping up at subway stations in Seoul in a collaboration between Seoul Metro and an agricultural startup to utilize vacant spaces and diversify the subway operator's revenue sources.
Seoul Metro is renting idle spaces to Farm8, a startup with about 300 employees which supplies vegetables grown indoors efficiently and safely to retailers and restaurants.
Farm8 is also testing farm cafes in three stations and plans to open more outlets in the future, as well as to export longer-life vegetables, including paprika, to Japan.
Some 30 types of vegetables, including varieties of lettuce, basil and edible flowers, are grown in a cultivation room of about 200 sq. meters. The plan is to harvest 30 to 40 kg of vegetables a day on shelves of about 4 meters and sell them as ingredients for the cafe's salads, priced at 5,900 won ($5.04), and 3,000-won vegetable juice. Vegetables that are unsuitable for consumption at the cafes will be sold to outside restaurants.
The company will operate stores combining cultivation rooms and cafes depending on locations, including setting up salad box vending machines at subway stations in business districts. Farm8 has already started testing "smart farms" in which artificial intelligence-powered robots will plant and harvest vegetables as well as adjust water quality. It also plans to develop new types of stores so that it can reduce operation costs, and it will open two more outlets in early 2020.