Japanese technology giant Toshiba has unveiled a huge factory farm where it is growing various types of lettuce leaves without sunlight or soil for sale in its new healthcare business. Located in disused 21,000-square foot electronics factory in Yokosuka, Toshiba claims to have created a perfect ‘germ free’ environment where it will grow three million bags of lettuce a year. Completely cut off from conditions outside the temperature and humidity controlled isolation tank, lettuce inspectors wear full body suits while making notes on the quality and growth of the leaves on their tablet computers in order to prevent the air around the plants becoming contaminated. Each plant is blasted with artificial lighting to trick it into believing it is exposed to sunlight, while vitamins and nutrients are injected directly into its roots, meaning the lettuce does not need soil. The goal of Toshiba’s new high-tech farm is to produce the world’s highest quality lettuce. The final product will be free of any form of bacteria, fungi or insect life before being placed into sealed bags, which should ensure the product has a longer shelf life than other lettuces.
The gardening technique aims to have a bacteria ration of no more than 1/1000th – considerably lower than that found in normal gardening soil. Toshiba aims to harvest three million bags of leaf lettuce, baby leaf greens, spinach, mizuna and herbs every year – with each bag likely to cost consumers £1. The ultimate in organic vegetables, the lettuces require no pesticides but are expected to have a similar shelf to plants that have been heavily treated with chemicals. The lettuce factory is no marketing gimmick by Toshiba, however. Instead it represents the company’s latest attempt to diversify its technology-led business. There are already plans for the technology giant to build similar factories around the world over the coming years – and it will also be selling the high tech equipment that allows factories to produce similar products of exceptionally high quality.
Toshiba was founded in 1938 as Tokyo Shibaura Electric through the merger of Shibaura Seisaku-sho, founded in 1875, and Tokyo Denki, founded in 1890. The company name was officially changed to Toshiba Corporation in 1978.