Toshiba sets up veggie farm in clean-room

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 it is 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 revealed 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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