Friday, August 01, 2014

Panasonic Moves to Grow Vegetables Indoors in Singapore

Panasonic, the Japanese electronics giant, has announced its entry into high tech indoor farming in land-strapped Singapore. 

Panasonic Factory Solutions Asia, a regional subsidiary that provides manufacturing systems, is starting out in the grocery business by supplying the 3 local outlets of Ootoya, a Japanese restaurant chain, using a newly developed vegetable cultivation system.

Panasonic's 248 sq.-metre indoor farm is located in Tuas, an industrial zone in western Singapore, and is the first facility of its kind to be licensed by the government.   Panasonic says the innovative soil-based system employs LED lighting to grow vegetables without pesticides in half the time a traditional farm requires. The system also optimizes other growing conditions, including temperature, humidity and CO2 levels.

The Tuas facility has an initial production capacity of 3.6 tons of vegetables per year, but Panasonic hopes to boost output to 1,000 tons by March 2017 - equivalent to about 5% of Singapore's current vegetable production. [THAT would be quite something!!]

Panasonic can cultivate 10 kinds of vegetable at present, including lettuces, radishes, baby spinach, cherry tomatoes and basil. It is also producing popular Japanese varieties such as ooba (mint), mizuna (potherb mustard) and mitsuba (wild parsley) that are imported from Japan at present. According to Panasonic, its indoor-farmed produce could be half the price of imports. [ THAT is very relevant]

Panasonic is starting off its futuristic grocery business by supplying 3 kinds of vegetables for Ootoya salads, and will add two more next month. Ultimately, it hopes to produce 30 vegetables.

At a press conference on Thursday, Hideki Baba, managing director of Panasonic Factory Solution Asia Pacific, noted that Singapore at present produces only 8% of the vegetables it consumes due to the scarcity of farm land.    "Panasonic hopes our indoor vegetable farm can contribute effectively to the nation's food self-sufficiency levels," said Baba.

Panasonic's future business model for indoor farming will involve franchisees supplying restaurants and commercial grocers. A system for households that wish to self-grow is also being considered, and there are plans to export systems to Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.    "With the increase of salary levels and a large number of Japanese restaurants in these countries, we expect the demand for fresh and safe vegetables to grow," said Baba.  

Mostly sourced from a press release on July 31, 2014 9:44 pm JST by Tomomi Kikuchi Nikkei Staff writer 

This is an auspicious move - especially with a soil based system, rather than using hydroponics.  While other parts of the world are also developing similar approaches [ think Detroit in the USA for example] this venture in Singapore aims to offer fresh salad greens in a land poor region.

Could this system be replicated elsewhere?   Like Darwin for example?  And think outside the target of Japanese customers - it seems eminently replicable for many, many vegetables.

UPDATE - It seems many are interested in this concept with both Sharp and Fujitsu also involved in similar ventures - some in Japan, and some in the middle east [ Dubai].

Read more here -

Should we see more of these particularly in both hotter and colder regions of the world where vegetables are needed, but sometimes more difficult to grow, especially year round!

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