tech

World's largest all-LED vegetable plant starts operations

21 Comments
By Masaru Yoshida, Nikkei Monozukuri

Mirai Co Ltd has built a vegetable plant that uses only LED lamps for supplying light to grow vegetables in Tagajo City, Miyagi Prefecture.

It is one of the largest all-LED vegetable plants in the world, the company said. At the plant, it is possible to ship 10,000 heads of lettuce per day.

The building of the vegetable plant used to be part of Sony Sendai Technology Center. Mirai has been conducting verification tests for the development of technologies to control cultivation environments and LED lamps suited for vegetable plants in collaboration with General Electric Japan Ltd as one of the projects funded by Tohoku Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry. Kajima Corp designed and constructed the entire plant and developed a rack for cultivation.

The most distinguished feature of the plant is the LED lamp that General Electric Japan developed for vegetable plants. It evenly disperses LED light, which has a high directivity. Also, the company introduced a technology to apply lights with different wavelengths in accordance with the growth stage of a vegetable.

For example, at an early stage when a vegetable has just been taken out of a room that grows seedlings, a whitish light generated by combining white and red LEDs is applied to the vegetable to facilitate photosynthesis. Then, a reddish light generated by using red and blue LEDs is applied to facilitate the growth of leaves and roots. When the harvest time approaches, the whitish light is applied again to facilitate photosynthesis.

As a result, power consumption was reduced by 40% while yield per unit area increased by 50%, compared with a vegetable plant using only fluorescent lamps. However, Mirai did not disclose the specific wavelengths of the LED lamps, saying that they are its know-how.

Also, to make use of the building whose ceiling is as high as 7 meters, a 6-meter-high 15-level rack was developed. While lighting equipment and nutrient solution circulation system were integrated and made highly functional, costs were reduced by, for example, using general-purpose rack materials.

In addition, Kajima Corp introduced technologies to simulate cultivation environments. The technologies were developed based on the know-how built up by constructing vegetable plants. The position of the air-conditioning and other equipment was decided by repeatedly performing calculations to make sure that the multiple levels of the rack do not cause large differences in temperature, air flow and illuminance.

© Japan Today

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21 Comments
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Now this is the only way you grow something in such a controlled environment that you could (SHOULD) be able to legally label it as 'organic' IF you meet the 'organic' specifications. This business of growing things out in the open and labeling them as 'organic' when NO ONE can control what falls from the sky is ludicrous.

Some may not see this as natural but it is the most efficient way to grow most things without 'taxing' the land and surround areas. Also, this technology will make the greenies who protest daily that we should only buy local as this would make it so. LEDs are becoming cheaper and cheaper and the know how to build your own 'grow LED lamps' is already out there on the internet. All it takes is the new generation of farmers to adapt to this and you could have year round crops anywhere. Yes, you could even use renewable energy to power these new grow houses. You could even build one on your own property or even in your house as you scale it to the needs of your family.

Hey, if we can build 3D models right at home then why not grow food right at home? It all depends on just how much you want to be in control and how much you willing do.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

This plant must be perfect for desert lands and seems to be a future farm.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The products made in these hydroponics farm factories are quite safe in quality but are in no way "Organic" since they feed the plants with various chemical fertilizers that are disolved in the water.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Perfect for growing pot in secret?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

KnowBetter wrote; " ... this ... will make the greenies who protest ... we should only buy local ..."

This is not an either or situation, it is a matter of integration. An adversarial stance would be counter productive and if you listen evolved thinkers advocate this.

The principle of locally grown vegetable applies to human health, waste generated using carbon or nuclear energy in transport and failure to create sustainable employment.

There is no reason this technology could not be smaller and still locally employ people. However, since the primary premise of corporations is; 'you make money, I make money and .... the customer'

KnowBetter ****wrote; " ... why not grow food right at home?" Agreed, that would reduce the energy footprint even further. Do you think the corporations will release the technology? Perhaps it up to small business to be innovative and develop this technology. ...

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Something big for stepping farther to open up...outer home...u dig it?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

plants absorb nutrients down to the molecular level, they do not distinguish if those nutrients came from decaying matter ie. animal manure or fish guts "tea", or from readily available "chemical" fertilizers. everyone especially organic farming proponents should know that. just like natural sea water vs laboratory formulated sterile artificial sea water, salt water fishes can live in it with no problems, they do not distinguish if it is natural or man-made. just like the air we breathe complete with carbon dioxides and monoxides from cars vs properly mixed gases without those pollutants like the those used by scuba divers and in artificial environments, we can all breathe in it just fine with no adverse effects. well we all know where this is going... so if those so called "organic" proponents want their salads grown in chicken/horse/cow poop complete with those disease causing bacteria in it, go ahead, bon appétit!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

So amazing! This is the future!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Next bold step is to adapt this technology to "zero" G; as in a space ship or satellite. Also, home grow racks could be adapted to use both natural daylight and the LED illumination. I wonder what this kit would sell for at my local garden store or "big box"? The real beauty is the infinite scalability of the process.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Ooakoto Ootamaka wrote;" ... chicken/horse/cow poop complete with those disease causing bacteria in it, go ahead, bon appétit!" Interesting worldview given microorganisms on and in your body are outnumber your cells 12:1.

Integration of microbiota from our environment is now known to be crucial to our bodies equilibrium. Vital for the human immune system and one reason why industrial food corporations try to sell us probiotics/bacteria for our health.

Pathetic really trying to rebalance around 2000 grams of intestinal flora with approximately 65 grams of probiotics. Our intestinal flora comes from the food we eat and industrialised food is barron. Japanese culture is rich in traditional foods that feed our natural intestinal flora.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

In Japan, at least, hydroponic systems big enough to grow lettuce and other leafy vegetables, but small enough to put on a balcony, are alreasy available at several home stores. Large-scale systems like the one shown here have also been successfully introduced in Mongolia (among other places), where there is always a shortage of green vegetables through most of the colder months; people are happy not to have to pay exorbitant prices for ragged produce shipped from half a continent away.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Well, this looks like the right technology to replace the natural environment that has been destroyed by the Fukushima fiasco. Japan will certainly need more of these plants as the government continues to push for the restarting of nuclear reactors some of which are just about guaranteed to fail.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

In climes nearer the equator, this technology may not be especially needed, but in places where growing vegetables outdoors is difficult or impossible most of the year, this technology could be a god-send.

It would also be interesting to see if the Japanese could adapt this technology for the International Space Station. It must be very expensive to use rockets to deliver salads up to orbit. On missions to other planets, it might be more practical to grow vegetables than to bring them along. At the least, it could be a good way to supplement the food supply on a trip to Mars.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

plants absorb nutrients down to the molecular level, they do not distinguish if those nutrients came from decaying matter ie. animal manure or fish guts "tea", or from readily available "chemical" fertilizers. everyone especially organic farming proponents should know that...

so if those so called "organic" proponents want their salads grown in chicken/horse/cow poop complete with those disease causing bacteria in it, go ahead, bon appétit!

That would be why you wash vegetables before cooking/eating them. As you point out, plants only take in things at the molecular level. Bacteria are too big to enter via the root system.

The products made in these hydroponics farm factories are quite safe in quality but are in no way "Organic" since they feed the plants with various chemical fertilizers that are disolved in the water.

I did not see anywhere in the article where this was labeled a hydroponic operation.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As I live in northern latitudes it would be nice to have fresh vegetables grown on site around the house all year long. I don't care about the wavelength of light, just package a rack together for home use and sell it. I'd buy it ;)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

What is wrong with sunlight? Seems to be an unnecessary expense and a waste of electricity.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

The only new thing here is the change from fluorescent to Light Emitting Diode illumination.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Probably one of the best known plants grown under totally unnatural conditions is the Dutch Skunk. Yes indeed it does what it's supposed to do, and more, but unlike other strains of weed, skunk sends a notable proportion of it's users mad. This is not down to increased THC as both Jamaica and Azania - South Africa have strains of herb/dagga which are much stronger than "the punk". Neither is it known if it is a result of the various feeds or artificial lights under which it is grown, what is known is that there is a problem and a different kind of "buzz". Elements within the modern world have become accustomed to disparaging all things natural with a preference to the man made, but let it be remembered that plants not only require water and nutrients but that sunlight and it's properties is a part of plant's food. LED or florescent lights will never provide all that sunlight does, neither do they encourage the plant to healthily "exercise" by systematically moving, as plants do, as they follow the sun on it's daily course. The majority of man's food problems are really based on land distribution and use, but that problem is far to hard for us to tackle.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Probably one of the best known plants grown under totally unnatural conditions is the Dutch Skunk. Yes indeed it does what it's supposed to do, and more, but unlike other strains of weed, skunk sends a notable proportion of it's users mad. This is not down to increased THC as both Jamaica and Azania - South Africa have strains of herb/dagga which are much stronger than "the punk". Neither is it known if it is a result of the various feeds or artificial lights under which it is grown, what is known is that there is a problem and a different kind of "buzz".

Thank you for that advertisement for a strain of weed, but let's be honest and admit it has nothing to do with this article.

Elements within the modern world have become accustomed to disparaging all things natural with a preference to the man made, but let it be remembered that plants not only require water and nutrients but that sunlight and it's properties is a part of plant's food. LED or florescent lights will never provide all that sunlight does, neither do they encourage the plant to healthily "exercise" by systematically moving, as plants do, as they follow the sun on it's daily course.

And "thank you" for this excellent example of "junk science". Plants use photosynthesis to create sugars used by the plant as food. Photosynthesis uses any light (not just sunlight) to generate those sugars. Certain wavelengths of light work better with certain plants, and this was where fluorescent lights were lacking due to their tendency to be strongest in the blue wavelengths. An LED array, however, can be modulated and filtered to display almost any wavelength(s) in the visible and even near-visible spectrums. The output can be tailored to each species of plant being grown without having to change-out bulbs.

Plants have no muscles and therefore have no need to "exercise". The reason a plant swings its leaves to face the Sun (originally known as "heliotropism" but changed to "phototropism" once it was proven that the plants were reacting to ANY light, not just the Sun) is not to become buff like Ahh-nuld Schwartzenegger, but because that maximizes the amount of photosynthesis conducted during the day. A plant placed in a tray such as the ones in this article where the light overhead is continual and evenly distributed, has no reason to expend energy in the search for the most optimal photosynthesis angle.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It opens the possibility of polar region organic farming. Although we all know they have Mars in mind...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Fadamor, thanks for the promotion. However I didn't mean exercise in the muscle building way, as all "exercise" that we take, even small movements, is beneficial, whether or not we know it, movement is a big part of life. A plant outdoors not only will follow sunlight it will also experience movement from the wind and maybe other forms of life passing by. My argument is not against science but against the rush to non-wholesome methods without need. My point which you didn't quote was "The majority of man's food problems are really based on land distribution and use, but that problem is far to hard for us to tackle." PS you should be able to discern that I'm not a supporter of the "punk" and it indeed has everything to do with this article, when it comes to growing method.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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