Tokyo to Become a Major Center for Plant Factories?
The world's first closed-type plant cultivation
There are various aspects to the problems surrounding food and agriculture, such as a shortage of people taking on agricultural work and decreasing food stability caused by extreme weather. This is where plant factories enter into the spotlight.
By cultivating plants indoors in controlled growth environments, plant factories are able to grow vegetables anywhere, regardless of climate or season. They are also expected to act as one measure against the decreasing number of farmers, and the operating market size for plant factories in Japan is expected to grow to a scale of 670 billion yen (including equipment and facilities) by 2025.
Among them, PLANTORY tokyo, a plant factory and research facility located in Kyobashi, Tokyo, employs cutting-edge technology that puts itself one step ahead of conventional plant factories. PLANTX Corporation, which established this facility, is a startup launched by a group of engineers skilled in manufacturing. "We developed the 'Culture Machine' because we believe plant factories hold the potential to become a key technology for supporting next-generation agriculture," says Representative Yamada Kosuke.
The Culture Machine is the world's first closed-type plant cultivation machine. By developing their own systems that meticulously control environmental conditions such as the amount of light, air, fertilizer, and water, PLANTX has made it possible to produce vegetables with greater quality and stability than conventional plant factories.
PLANTX chose Kyobashi as it is a symbolic area that supported Tokyo's food culture with its produce markets from the Edo period to the early Showa era. Conveniently located near Tokyo Station, PLANTORY tokyo is also easy to visit even from overseas, allowing many people to see its innovative production process.
Further, by building plant factories in cities such as Tokyo, fresh vegetables can be delivered while reducing food miles. This also leads to reductions in food loss during transportation and a lower environmental impact. The company has already been wholesaling lettuce produced at the plant factory to Tokyo supermarkets since 2020, which has been positively received and is selling well.
Applications in the field of beauty and health
PLANTX's Culture Machine holds further potential beyond its ability to grow high-quality plants with high efficiency. It is also expected to produce crops with greater added value.
By meticulously controlling environmental conditions with the Culture Machine, it is actually possible to bring out more of the plants' growth potential and produce vegetables with greater quantities of components that are beneficial to us humans. Put simply, the machine may be able to produce supplement-like vegetables. Applications in other fields such as beauty and health would also be within the realm of possibility.
"Plant factories are a developing field with many unknowns. That is why we believe that they can be a great business opportunity and also contribute to society in areas such as the realization of sustainable food production and the promotion of health through food," says Yamada.
Plant factories can grow vegetables with high added value close to where they are consumed. Should they become standard, fresh and nutritious vegetables and other plants never before seen will emerge one after the next, enriching our diets and health. A new form of agriculture only possible in cities—the day may soon arrive when Tokyo becomes a major center for plant factories.