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article imagePanasonic revolutionizes agri-tech in growing vegetables

By Karen Graham     Aug 4, 2014 in Food
Electronics giant Panasonic is well-known for televisions and home theater systems. But Singaporeans got a surprise last week when a unit of the corporation started selling fresh radishes and lettuce to a chain of Japanese restaurants in Singapore.
Panasonic claims to have the first indoor farm in the island-state. Singapore is not only land-scarce, but is almost totally reliant on imports for food. Only 0.5 percent of the nations land is agricultural, and agriculture is only responsible for less than 0.5 percent of the country's GDP. According to the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority, because of the scarcity of arable land, 90 percent of Singapore's food is imported.
Panasonic's move into agriculture is based on the idea of using new farming technologies as a means to ease the country's dependence on imported food products. Hideki Baba, managing director of Panasonic Factory Solutions Asia Pacific said, "We foresee agriculture to be a potential growth portfolio, given the global shortage of arable land, climate change and increasing demand for quality food as well as stable food supply."
The Panasonic facility started out production on a small scale with a production capacity of 3.6 tons annually. They produce 10 different vegetables, like baby radishes, mini-spinach and lettuce. Indoor farming has become the rage with other hi-tech companies in Japan, as well. Fujitsu Ltd. is growing lettuce at its Fukushima province plant, and Sharp Corp. is working on growing strawberries indoors in Dubai.
Panasonic's indoor farm is located in a factory building on the outskirts of the city. The 248 sq. meter farm uses LED lights in place of regular fluorescent lighting to aid in nurturing the vegetables. Visitation is restricted because of the need to control temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide. The company plans to grow at least 30 different vegetables by March 2017, accounting for a full 5.0 percent of local production. One big plus will be the cost. Panasonic vegetables will sell for half the price of those imported from Japan.
Japan's Sharp Corporation has been struggling, recording net losses for two years running. In July of 2013, the company started an experimental indoor strawberry farm in Dubai, not to go into the produce business, but to instead develop an agricultural technology division. They plan to focus on factory design, technology needed to monitor growing conditions, and the various maintenance services needed in growing strawberries in hermetically-sealed enclosures.
Indoor farming of strawberries.
Indoor farming of strawberries.
/作者:Formulax
Sharp has also developed an electronic sensor that will allow corporate partners to monitor the level and concentration of microbes, like bacteria and mold spores in the air. This is a great step forward for food processing companies, doing in 10-minutes what usually takes hours in some facilities. The Microbe sensor went on sale in October 2013.
In the Global Food Security Index, Singapore ranks fifth out of 109 countries. Even so, the government wants to diversify its food sources and become more self-reliant in producing their own eggs, fish and leafy vegetables. To that end, they have provided some funding and research support to a local company, Sky Greens. They grow leafy vegetables at their farm in frames that are three-stories high inside greenhouses.
Sky Greens farms in Singapore.
Sky Greens farms in Singapore.
Journeyman Pictures
Sky Greens has 600 frames and plans to expand to 2,000 frames by next year. Presently, it is producing one ton of vegetables a day, selling them to FairPrice, a local supermarket. Singapore also has a number of farms using aeroponics or hydroponics, growing without soil. With global food security becoming more important as we look to the future, the world is going to see a bigger use of technology in the way farming is carried out, or in doors.
More about Panasonic, Electronics, indoor vegetable farm, lettuce and radishes, Singapore
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