Factory farming of the vegetable kind

By Aimee Whitcroft 22/08/2012

Well, I’m back!  We survived not only the Mongol Rally, but the ensuing two weeks in Ulaanbataar (more on that in another post, though).

Vegetable factory farming, China Daily August 18th 2012 , http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2012-08/17/content_15685417.htm. Click to enlarge.

In the meantime, I bring you some Chinese science journalism, courtesy of the free newspaper* on the plane between Ulaanbataar and Beijing. Or possibly Beijing and Hong Kong…

According to the article, a number of countries in East Asia are looking at a new-but-not-really technology for getting their daily 5: factory farms. For veggies.

First developed in Japan in the ’70s, they’re able to grow high yields in artificial environments, neatly dealing with the whole arable land issue.

Not only can these factories produce plants without natural sun/light, but also without real soil! Growing them inside, in  nutrient solution, means that they don’t need cleaning: if you think that’s trivial, look into the gigantic amounts of water and energy used for removing soil from our fresh produce…

It also means that pesticidies and fertilisers aren’t really necessary either – another good thing for people concerned both about food safety and our environment.

And, according to the chap quoted in the article, a Dr Yang Qichang, these veggies are generally of higher quality than their field-grown analogues, containing fewer nitrates and more vitamins.

The factories have been spreading through China and Japan, and are expected to be an important source of food in these regions, given that natural disasters and reaching the limit of convential yield increase technologies are a major factor already.

Anyhoo, for the full article, click on the image above.

Want your own personal vegetable factory? Well, look no further, because “one of Japan’s largest construction companies – Daiwa House recently introduced a line of ready-made hydroponic vegetable units called Agri-Cube.” I think I wants one, given the general horror that is Wellington’s climate 🙂 Video below…

And if you’re interested in other, very clever intensive farming techniques being developed in the East, have a look at a previous blog post of mine about sky farming.

UPDATE: Also check out http://www.verticalfarm.com/ (thanks to again Tommy Leung, aka @The_Episiarch!)


* I happened to glance at the paper being held by the person in the seat in front of me, and saw this. Awesome 🙂

Click here to view the video on YouTube.

0 Responses to “Factory farming of the vegetable kind”

  • The original article is very interesting, but it glosses over the single largest drawback of growing food indoors: energy use.

    That the cost of a lettuce was “about five times more than an ordinary one” suggests how much energy is used for heat, light and water circulation. Using large amounts of energy to grow low-calorie food (lettuce, tomato etc are mostly water after all) is a long term losing proposition.

  • John – you make a very good point 🙂 However, as with many technologies, I imagine that time and continued development (if invested in) will yield further efficiencies.

    I’d also be curious to see their maths when incorporating not only the energy costs of the light etc, but the costs of damage to the environment through nitrates etc, the costs of arable land which can, instead, be used to house people (and which, I imagine, may begin to decline as the climate changes), and so forth. And hell, even much of the lighting issue could prolly be fixed by judicious use of skylights, PVC calls and batteries and so forth.

    And as for low-calorie – well, sure, but such foods also contain a bunch of nutrients etc that people need, do they not?

    Just because it’s more expensive now doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile thing to pursue, especially given how it might expand in scope, types of crops which can be farmed, etc…