Japanese “Farmers” Trade Boots for Lab Coats
June 9, 2009 | by DanBing

There was a time when buying vegetables directly from a farmer might leave you with traces of cow manure on your shoes. But those days are long gone. Visit a farm now, and what clings to your heels is more likely to be a combination of fertilizers, pesticides, and maybe a little actual dirt.

But even that state of affairs could be in for a change. In fact, for some Japanese, the days of eating vegetables grown in the ground, under an open sky, are already coming to an end.

Reacting to a scandal caused by the importation of pesticide-tainted dumplings from China, the Japanese food industry has set its sights on a new type of agriculture facility, the “vegetable factory.”

In vegetable factories, “farmers” in dustproof suits, gloves, and surgical masks raise produce under completely artificial conditions. Humidity, temperature, light, and other factors are carefully controlled, and the plants grow in a solution of nutrients rather than soil.

Japan’s agriculture ministry hopes to have as many as 150 vegetable factories running within the next three years.

The benefits of the system are obvious. Imagine being able to harvest “organic” lettuce 20 times a year rather than two or three. Imagine packaging and selling vegetables that need no washing, and that will last for three weeks in the fridge because there were so few germs in their growing environment.

Not only that, but these “plant plants” can provide a profitable opportunity for recycling: The idea is to convert manufacturing facilities shut down by the recession into sites for producing food.

Which is all well and good, provided your definition of food includes antiseptic greens grown in fluorescent-lit wading pools by guys in lab suits. That may be what’s in store for all of us someday. But if so, the future doesn’t sound particularly appetizing.

(link 1 2)



DanBing has lived in one Asian country and traveled in various others, engaging in activities that ranged from teaching English to playing Irish music to researching articles to marrying. The best part was usually the food, though the marriage hasn’t been too bad either. But of all his many accomplishments he is perhaps proudest of his close–extremely close–association with the person who wrote The Devil’s Food Dictionary: A Pioneering Culinary Reference Work Consisting Entirely of Lies (www.frogchartpress.com).

Latest posts by DanBing (see all)

  • COOL!!! so clean~

  • I like it is not that weird .It is kind of nice and probably the next big industry coming

  • I think the idea of mass producing like is the way to the future.This is not so new. We have been doing With the world land being used up,growing vegtables this only makes sense. Two thumbs up

  • should be the other way around.

  • Makes good sense! The waste heat from reactors cooling towers must be trapped and used this way. The chemical fertilizers can be derived from humanure, urine in particular, for a more complete cycle. For northern climates this may be the path towards food self-sufficiency once the cheap oil is all gone and costs will prohibit flying fresh greens to these people. LED lights will also provide a cost reduction, in place of the fluorescent lights shown.

  • Cool…. It's so neat and clean

  • think about the huge amount of energy needed to keep these "farms" at the right temperature and light. In nature this energy is provided by the sun. In an artificial setting the energy must come from either fossil fuels or unsustainable electricity practices. Until there are widespread sustainable ways the harvest energy, this farming can be terribly damaging to the environment.

  • This is a nightmare!

    You can't use living things as a factory, its against everything.
    Its unnatural, expensive and without a doubt harder to educate people for it, lets hope that this trend wont catch on and turn the world into a dystopia nightmare

    • Ooh, dystopia. Someone learned a new word today.

    • Haha…i like the undue fear you express. What i don't get is where your morality regarding plants comes from? If you so cared about the earth then you would realize that a system like this would effectively solve or at least alleviate some of the damaging effects that modern farming practices have on the environment and more importantly, our health. Having factories that produce healthy, nutritious, and readily available food for our ever growing world population would not only improve our health, size of our wallets, and lives but it would allow the massive tracts of land used for agriculture now to revert back to their natural rhythms thus increasing the health and prosperity of the world's various ecologies. Furthermore, due to the lack of pathogens the plants encounter we will be allowed to avoid use of harmful pesticides, eliminate the emergence of deadly pesticide resistant pathogens that are a result of extended exposure to said pesticides, and be able to utilize natural/renewable fertilizers to their maximum potential without fear of crop loss. What were you saying about dystopias again?…i was too busy proving you wrong. Kudos to the japanese for actual trying to solve problems.

  • weren't they doing this at disney's Epcot center in the 80's?

  • this isn't new. it's pretty standard hydroponics. yeah, they were doing it at Epcot in the 80's. as a trained horticulturalist, i can say that it is VERY efficient and rather cost-effective. however, it would be best if energy inputs came from sustainable sources such as solar, geothermal, etc. Uncle B had the right idea with collecting waste energy from cooling towers.

  • Growing food from the earth has been working for thousands of years. Fixing something that ain't broke sounds like what's going on here. I do like the advantage of more harvests tho.

  • Population explosion will make veganism a rule not a passing fancy in America and someone has to supply all those veggies! This way we can control quality more closely and incidentally employ more people – win win I say!

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