Indoor large scale food farming is a growing global trend

Mirai, Inc. has completed an indoor farm at Miyagi Fukko (Reconstruction) Park located in Tagajo, Miyagi Prefecture, as part of a program subsidized by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). One of the world’s largest plant factories using LED lighting throughout, the facility can produce a daily harvest of approximately 10,000 heads of lettuce.

The indoor farm was created through the renovation of an existing building that was previously an electronic device factory at Sony Sendai Technology Center in Miyagi Fukko Park, utilizing the structure’s special characteristics, such as clean-room facilities, thermal insulation systems and high ceilings. Kajima Corp. was in charge of the facilities design and construction, as well as the engineering of a rack system for cultivation, while GE Japan Corp. was responsible for the specialized indoor farm LED lights.

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Food shortage is a bigger problem than a lot of people realize. At the current growth rate of 1.1% a year, the population will see a 30 per cent increase by 2050. That means there has to be a whopping 70 per cent increase in food to meet demand, which, based on the current growth of the agricultural industry, simply isn’t going to happen. Considering that an estimated one-in-eight people worldwide are already suffering from chronic malnourishment, you can see how the problem will get worse over time.

Supporting recovery and new industry in Tohoku through advanced agriculture

Miyagi Fukko Park was established by the Miyagi Organization for Industry Promotion at facilities on loan from Sony Sendai Technology Center as a center to assist in the recovery of manufacturing industries and for the generation and development of new industries in the Tohoku region, which was devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Immediately following the Great East Japan Earthquake, GE Japan initiated new projects in the agricultural sector aimed at supporting the reconstruction effort for the Tohoku region. In undertaking this effort, GE Japan partnered with Mirai, which has abundant expertise in this field. With a view to expansion in operational scale, and with Mirai as its main constituent, the project was subsequently selected as a “Research and Development Project for the Creation of New Industry Through IT Integration” by the Tohoku Bureau of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

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Since April 2012, GE-made LED lighting, water processing and data analysis systems have been among those in use in the ongoing research and development project at the indoor farm installed within Miyagi Fukko Park.

Major results of research and development (conducted from April 2012 through March 2013) 

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Mirai drew up plans for the indoor farm at Miyagi Fukko Park in response to an open solicitation by METI’s Innovation Center Assistance Program for projects that could qualify for subsidies as advanced technology demonstration and evaluation facilities.

Characteristics of the facility

Until now, plant factories have typically used fluorescent lamps for artificial illumination, which have low initial costs. But together with GE Japan, Mirai developed LED lights that generate light in wavelengths adapted to plant growth. While reducing electric power consumption by 40% compared to fluorescent lighting, the facility has succeeded in increasing harvest yields by 50%. This makes it possible to recover the initial cost of the LED lighting.

Kajima applied its experience in constructing facilities meeting the high-level hygiene management requirements of pharmaceuticals factories to plan and design a plant factory that could facilitate hygienic and highly efficient management. While applying its logistics engineering expertise, Kajima also provided a multilevel rack system, which brings higher quality production at lower cost than before. In addition, simulations of sophisticated cultivation environments tailored to plant transpiration and other processes led to the creation of an optimum environment for plant growth with air conditioning systems designed for just the right distribution of wind speed and air temperatures around the cultivation rack units.

A new indoor farm in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, created as a joint venture by GE Japan and Mirai Inc. might just be the solution to our grim future. Born out of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that caused heavy food shortages, the farm is converted from a Sony Corporation semiconductor factory and is half the size of a football field. The indoor farm is illuminated entirely by LEDs and the lights are tailored to the specific frequency of light that plants need, thereby helping the crops grow 2.5 times faster.

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