Welcome to Toshiba Clean Room Farm Yokosuka, a former floppy disk (remember them?) factory near Tokyo that’s been empty and idle since 1994. As Japan’s electronics industry continues to go through painful restructuring, factories like the unused Toshiba plant are gradually being turned from non-producing assets to vital cogs in a wholly unexpected new business plan.
One might expect converting an electronics factory into an enclosed factory farm would be a costly investment with little chance of recouping those funds down the road. Toshiba’s bold venture looks to buck those expectations in a big way. According to an official company press release dated September 30th, 2014, “Toshiba aims for annual output of three million bags (one bag is equivalent to a head of lettuce) of leaf lettuce, baby leaf greens, spinach, mizuna and herbs, and targets annual sales target of 300 million yen (about $3 million).”
There’s a method to Toshiba’s “madness”… and if you think about it, a spotlessly clean facility designed to produce computer components is in many ways already equipped to grow high-quality vegetables in near- sterile conditions. Very little modification was required to adapt the disk factory’s fluorescent lighting, air-conditioning system, remote monitoring system, and sterilization systems to the demands of hydroponic farming. “Fortunately,” explains Hiroshi Ishimura, general manager of the company’s new business development division, “Toshiba has a lot of technology that can be used for this.”