Now Toshiba Grows Veggies In A Fab

The Japanese are far too sensible to have allowed the Cherry Blossom season to send them collectively potty but, after Fujitsu’s revelation yesterday that its growing lettuce in an old fab and may grow spinach, today Toshiba tells us that it is equipping an old fab at Yokosuka to grow lettuce, baby leaf greens, spinach and other veggies and expects to ship these in Q2.

‘The production management system will be based on that utilised for semiconductor device production,’ says Toshiba.

The growing area is a former 2,000 square metre clean-room. Production capacity says Toshiba, is ‘3 million heads per year (lettuce-equivalent)’.

Clean-rooms have significant advantages for veggie-growing, it seems. ‘Minimising the entry of germs and the damage that they can do considerably extends the freshness and shelf-life of vegetables, a major concern for retailers of cut vegetables and salads,’ says Toshiba.

Annual vegetable sales this financial year are expected to be $3 million. ‘Toshiba will promote sales to supermarkets, convenience stores and restaurants, and also plans to meet market needs by offering functional vegetables rich in polyphenols and vitamin C, achieved by careful control of the growth environment. In order to increase sales in this new business, Toshiba is also considering construction a large-scale plant factory outside Japan, and the sale of equipment for plant factory applications within FY2014,’ says the company.

Yesterday, Fujitsu rvealed it is growing and selling low-potassium lettuce in a 2000 square metre former clean room at its fab in Aizu-Wakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture. Fujitsu plans to branch out into spinach.

Sharp, JFE Holdings and Olympus are also growing vegetables in former factories. Sharp is growing strawberries in Dubai.

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18 Comments

  1. david manners
    May 22, 2014 11:42

    Thank you Dr Bob, my next trip to Sainsbury’s will be an exploration along these lines.

  2. Dr Bob
    May 22, 2014 09:48

    David, it’s only the lettuce that exudes a white sap when cut at the stem that has the highest concentrations. Rules out Iceberg

  3. david manners
    May 19, 2014 22:29

    In California I expect it’s wacky baccy, Mike.

  4. Mike Bryant
    May 19, 2014 22:20

    Ah now that would be a viable cash crop for an old fab. I wonder if that’s what they do with them in California and Colorado ?

  5. david manners
    May 19, 2014 10:56

    Is that so, Dr Bob? You’re ahead of me there. I’ll have to start munching what I’ve always dismissed as a wimpy, girlie form of sustenance.

  6. Dr Bob
    May 19, 2014 10:17

    All this interest in lettuce has nothing to do with the mild narcotic properties then?

  7. david manners
    May 19, 2014 08:00

    I sgree with you Jon that growing veg in old fabs is a worthwhile occupation for engineeers and an imaginative use of resources. It may lead to sll sorts of new ways to feed people and there is nothing more important thsn that.

  8. Jon Howes
    May 19, 2014 07:28

    David, Maybe (only maybe) that approach is the source of some lack of respect for the engineering community in these parts [Deploys controversy + Puts tin hat on, ducks, covers] … We would all do well to (re)read and inwardly digest Self Help by Samuel Smiles as many of the highly respected Victorian engineering community did (and as Mr Toyoda, founder of the Toyota empire did). :-)

  9. david manners
    May 16, 2014 17:26

    Maybe so, Jon, IMHO if engineers were asked to grow lettuce here they’d get snotty about it.

  10. Jon Howes
    May 16, 2014 16:47

    David, Good work by those folks then! It fits with my recollection that many folks in Japan, regardless of their specialism, had a strong desire to become a farmer because it is seen as so worthwhile and making a contribution to society.

  11. david manners
    May 16, 2014 16:14

    Well the interesting thing is Jon, that these companies growing veg in fabs haven’t gone and hired farmers or agronomists or whatever they’ve asked the IC engineers at the fabs to wrap their heads round the processes required for growing high value, better tasting veg.This they seem to have achieved

  12. Jon Howes
    May 16, 2014 15:29

    And to stimulate some additional debate or at least some additional rants: These activities by Japanese corporations probably owe something to the extremely high regard that farmers and farming have been held in for many many years in that culture. More so than engineers and engineering in some countries close to home. Or is it a result of Japan adopting a similar poor attitude to semiconductor engineers and engineering? ;-)

  13. david manners
    May 16, 2014 14:44

    On the other hand, Mike, there’s the pleasing symmetry of electronic chips giving way to potato chips

  14. Mike Bryant
    May 16, 2014 13:49

    I was thinking more along the lines of also using some of the equipment originally in the clean room to help develop the next generation of electronic devices, whatever their form may be,

  15. david manners
    May 16, 2014 10:00

    Great stuff, Stooriefit, I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you in the Philistine ranks of artefact sceptics.

  16. Stooriefit
    May 16, 2014 08:58

    Storing antiques? Time for my rant…

    Every time I see in the news that one of these art & antiques storage facilities gets burned to the ground, flooded, burgled or otherwise buggered the part of my mind which I don’t have any rational control over says “Good – I hope the insurance companies pay up and the art owners have a change of heart and decide to do something useful with the money, like investing in an under funded business, or setting up a charitable foundation for the benefit of humankind etc”.

    My rational mind says, “But it’s art and culture and we aren’t philistines, it is a tragedy that these culturally significant artifacts are gone.”

    My irrational mind says, “Culture? Don’t make me reach for my gun… If the stuff is so culturally significant why do we allow it to be locked away where no one can see it? It is a commodity, used like grain or pork bellies as an investment vehicle, except that it has no intrinsic value. It is like investing in horse shit, which probably has more intrinsic value in fact. And don’t get me started on “saving things for the nation” – if we took all the money we gave to the bloody gentry to stop them flogging the family Van Goghs to some dodgy oligarch abroad and used it to make reproductions, every council house in Cumbernauld could have a collection to rival the national gallery – but nobody wants that, because that would de-value everything, and remove one of the ways we decant obsecene quantities of money from oligarchs, and the stuff is horse shit anyway so anyone with any sense won’t give it house room.”

    My rational mind says, “Stop behaving like a twelve year old – things are never that simple.”

    My irrational mind say, “You know I’m right.”

    And I do…

  17. david manners
    May 15, 2014 14:04

    Operating theatre? Isolation ward? Storing organic materials? Storing seeds? Storing fragile atmospherically degradable antiques, old books and MSS? Storing sterile medical supplies? There’s a few, Mike, but growing extra-tasty veg is a service to mankind when, increasingly, fruit and veg from supermarkets are tasteless.

  18. Mike Bryant
    May 15, 2014 11:38

    Well I suppose the UK turned one into a Tesco so we can’t be that smug but I really think there must be something better a local university could do with 2000sq m of clean room.

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