When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Inside the Panasonic vegetable farm in Singapore
Inside the Panasonic vegetable farm in Singapore
Yann Rousseau

FUKUSHIMA — In 1970, electronics company Panasonic inaugurated a factory in the Japanese city of Fukushima to assemble radio sets. In the 1980s, when Japanese electronics were at their peak, the site expanded to produce video material and CD players. In 2011, the earthquake that destroyed the Daiichi nuclear power plant left the Panasonic factory intact. Today, the Panasonic plant is being used as a laboratory for revolutionary new farming techniques.

At the end of the corridor in the factory, where GPS systems for vehicles are still assembled, a sign reads: "Field entrance." You have to take off your shoes, put on plastic overalls, a surgical mask and a protection hood before you enter the decontamination airlock. "We mustn't bring germs into the crops," says Matt Matsuba, who works in the company's agriculture division.

The 1,200-square-meter indoor "field" has shelves that are five meters high. On them, there are 30 varieties of leafy vegetables like lettuce and spinach, which are grown without soil. Mineral nutrients are used to grow the plants in white trays under blue and red neon lights. "We have a special lighting that helps better develop the flavors, certain nutritive characteristics and to accelerate the vegetable's growth," Matt Matsuba says, after he samples an incredibly sweet lettuce.

In Singapore's first licensed indoor vegetable farm — Channel Panasonic - Official

Panasonic believes it can guarantee high yields using a battery of sensors and by managing temperatures efficiently. "We use 60 percent less electricity than traditional neon lights," Matsuba says, adding that Panasonic owns all the necessary technology for this cultivation technique.

"With these solutions, we can solve issues related to global warming, soil or water pollution, or even the drop in the number of farmers," says Yukinori Matsumoto, one of the directors of technology development at Panasonic.

Panasonic is already selling its lettuces to local supermarkets. It has also been marketing its pesticide-free vegetables to the restaurant industry. The company's priority now is to sell "out-of-the-box farms." One has already been installed in Singapore.

"There's a huge potential especially once we've reached almost complete automation," Matsuba says.

Inside the factory, the grow trays are moved along rails by a sorting machine. The company is testing a robot that's capable of gently transplanting, with tongs, minuscule sprouts.

Panasonic calculates that such a factory is profitable with just six employees and a daily production of 200 kilograms of lettuce. Moreover, the company believes it doesn't need professional farmers. Employees at the plant come from the company's former cellphone division, which has ceased to exist.

Panasonic continues to restructure its activities, and hopes its competitors will soon join the movement. "We need it, in order to create a real market," one manager says.

Toshiba, a multinational conglomerate, which had previously shown interest in the experiment, recently closed a similar factory in Yokosuka, near Tokyo. Sharp, an electronics maker recently acquired by Foxconn, another electronic manufacturer, seems reluctant to continue in that direction as well.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Coronavirus

Will China's Zero COVID Ever End?

Too much has been put in to the state-sponsored truth that minimal spread of the virus is the at-all-cost objective. But if the Chinese economy continues to suffer, Xi Jinping may have no choice but to second guess himself.

COVID testing in Guiyang, China

Cfoto/DDP via ZUMA
Deng Yuwen

The tragic bus accident in Guiyang last month — in which 27 people being sent to quarantine were killed — was one of the worst examples of collateral damage since the COVID-19 pandemic began in China nearly three years ago. While the crash can ultimately be traced back to bad government policy, the local authorities did not register it as a Zero COVID related casualty. It was, for them, a simple traffic accident.

The officials in the southern Chinese province of Guizhou, of course, had no alternative. Drawing a link between the deadly crash and the strict policy of Zero COVID, touted by President Xi Jinping, would have revealed the absurdity of the government's choices.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ