Originally published in Issue 11
By Eri Hayashi, Japan Plant Factory Association, Industry Expert
After the 1980s and 1990s, Japan has been experiencing its third boom of commercial plant factories equipped with artificial light (PFAL). This has been occurring since 2009.
Besides government-funded projects, many Japanese companies started to enter the PFAL industry as growers and/or system manufacturers. Not only agri-preneurs (agri-ventures) and food companies, but many firms from a wide variety of industries including electronics, chemical, energy, engineering and transportation have become active in the Japanese PFAL market. These companies include major players in the various industry sectors. Some have even started expanding overseas.
So far, more than 150 PFALs are operating in Japan, which is the largest number worldwide. They are growing and selling vegetables, using multiple business models. In addition to leafy greens, crops of head lettuce, herbs, strawberries and highly nutritious plants are being cultivated on a commercial basis.
There are two main points to describe Japanese PFAL market trends:
1. Lowering the cost of leafy greens in mass production.
2. Developing value-added plant markets, i.e., applying higher functional plants to health foods or pharmaceuticals, apart from fresh vegetables.
In regards to R&D, many companies have been working on LED grow light systems, cultivation recipes to enrich plant nutrition, automation, robotics, efficient use of energy resources, cultivation techniques and developing new systems/materials to PFAL specification, etc. It looks like more potential entrants would bring in diversity and expand the market globally.
For more: Japan Plant Factory Association, email@example.com;