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Japan reconstituting plant factory concept

In Japan the previously developed concept of a plant factory again receives attention and in contrast with previous attempts it appears that the concept will be successful now. This is also thanks to the worries of Japanese customers regarding food safety and the low level of self-sufficiency. The plant factory is a closed growing system, in which throughout the year a constant production of high quality vegetables can be achieved. Artificial control of growing conditions, such as light, temperature, moisture, carbon dioxide concentration and the possibility to add culture solutions are added advantages because of this growers can plan their production better.
 

A planting room directly behind a small shop

The closed growing systems in Japan only use artificial light. Hygienic conditions are an absolute requirement. The system is regarded to be a way to increase food production by cultivating in more than one layer and all year round. In Japan the food processing industry and the restaurant sector strongly demand a stable supply of high quality vegetables all year round. Furthermore Japan expects plant factories to develop vegetables with medicinal properties in future. In research laboratories genetically modified rice has already been grown, decreasing blood pressure or hay fever symptoms. For the time being, however, cultivation is mainly directed towards leafy vegetables, tomatoes and strawberries.
 
New impulse
Early last year the Japanese ministry of Economics, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) gave a new impulse to the concept of plant factories. Both ministries started a study group Plant Factories. The idea is to triple the number of plant factories country wide from 50 to 150 and to decrease production costs by 30%.
 
High investments
Many companies are interested in plant factories and related activities. According to recent market research it is expected, that agricultural business will reach 4,9 billion Euro in 2015, an increase of 11.3% compared to 2008. It is expected, that the market for substratum cultivation will grow to 72 million Euro in 2015, an increase of 66.7% compared to 2008. The high investments are still an important handicap at the moment for the plant factories. In addition new growing techniques and schooling of staff are required. Also new growing methods and new plants are to be developed, which fit in with the system. In terms of the present financial assistance plan it is possible to cover half of the total expenses from subsidies.


Test placing in plant room (with tomatoes) in the
cellar of a large office building

Large companies.

It is expected that large companies will lead the development of plant factories. Simultaneously the Japanese government will support universities and research companies with the development of new cost saving technologies and methods, so that plant factories will be able to operate more productively and energy efficiently. Research projects will be supported by the government by way of subsidies.

Source: Berichten Buitenland, Ministerie LNV


Publication date: 4/6/2010
Author: Gerard Lindhout
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


 


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