Articles on Japan in the papers or on the Internet generally focus on various innovations and developments. Long ago, the topic was the miniaturization of electronic devices, to work to get as much extra stuff into ever-smaller "boxes". Nowadays, I keep reading about inventions that improve living standards (floating solar power facilities, an office/kitchen/study, etc. that can be collapsed to fit into a suitcase). But one article on a recent Japanese idea really got me thinking. It was about vegetable growing, which is very much of a down-to-earth issue. Except that this lettuce was being grown inside a building, under artificial conditions, with no natural lighting.


A Sony semi-conductor factory in the Miyagi Prefecture that is no longer in use has been turned into a lettuce farm. The area is equivalent to half a soccer field and it has been used to create one of the most advanced closed-system lettuce farms in Japan. The facility has been freed of weather concerns and the lettuce development process is fully controlled. Hungarians have a favorite early summer dish – gnocchi mixed with scrambled eggs and served with a side dish of lettuce with a vinegar dressing. But with this farm the lettuce is fresh and delicious all year round so restaurants are able to offer this favorite dish during any season. 🙂


This lettuce farm produces 10,000 heads of lettuce every single day! Unbelievable! And the size of the farm is so small that under normal circumstances only a fraction of this amount would be possible. We can clearly see from the photo that the lettuces are grown in shelf-like stacks. The stacks have their own irrigation system as well as LED lighting that can set the day/night cycle for optimum accelerated growth. The system is also temperature controlled, which means the farm can produce uniform quality lettuce throughout the year. The farm management says it needs just 1 percent of the water used in traditional technology to grow the crop, since not even a drop of water is wasted. This technology could be used to essentially grow fresh vegetables anywhere including in big cities. Such farms could even be set up underground.


My own feelings about the technology were mixed. I liked the sound of the innovation and of the opportunities it promises. Steadily growing populations could be provided with healthy food with the technique. With quality guaranteed, the overall growing process is more like a lettuce laboratory than a farm. The water is monitored and contaminant-free and these farms could be set up anywhere including places where there is little rain or other natural precipitation.

But, I couldn’t get rid of certain negative feelings. This way of crop growing is anything but natural. In fact, on a certain level it is distinctly artificial. Nature is influenced, and controlled and no one knows what the long-term consequences might be. And what’s next? Will we wake up tomorrow to find that we can print our breakfasts with a 3D printer?

I’m curious to see how far the technology will spread and what the long-term feedback will be.

What do you think?

The original article and the source of the photos: