Japanese families who live along side Tokyo’s Odakyu train line can now enjoy more nutritious vegetables thanks to a collaborative project between Tamagawa University and Nishimatsu Construction.
Last October, the two groups began an experimental operation to grow leaf lettuce using LED lights and liquid fertilizer. The project was carried out at the 900 square meter LED SciTech farm, spanning two floors, where lights, temperature, and humidity are controlled by 50 sensors. By adjusting the RGB light wavelength as well as the amount of light, the system is able to produce nutritious vegetables in a very short amount of time. Including the time for seedling, vegetables can be harvested within 15 days.
At SciTech farms, sweetness, color, texture, softness and even flavor can be controlled. The resulting lettuce can contain as much as 2.6 times the antioxidative potency in comparison to regular lettuce. Since these vegetables are harvested without pesticides, they can even be eaten without washing.
The process of LED cultivation brought many challenges, including the durability of lamps and the huge initial cost. After much trial and error, they succeeded in improving the lamps and developing their cultivation method by analyzing how plants react to lights. The entire process from seeding to harvesting is done mechanically, which reduces man power, bringing the project closer to achieving profitability.
Dr. Hiroyuki Watanabe, the brains behind the SciTech farm project, initially got the idea during his time as a researcher at Mitsubishi Chemical back in 1992, when he inspected a NASA project which used LED lights to cultivate plants in space. He officially began his research for SciTech farms upon starting his job at Tamagawa University. The project aims not only to provide consumers with safer food but also to support industrial recovery in regions affected by the Tohoku earthquake.
This new super lettuce is named Yumena (roughly meaning ‘dreams and vegetables’) and can be bought at sixteen Odakyu OX super markets for about 200 yen, as of February 1. (Source tamagawa.jp, Yomiuri)