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Is this the future of food? Japanese 'plant factory' churn out immaculate vegetables

Last modified on 22/9/2009 at 5:14:00 PM. Total 440 views.

They look more like the brightly lit shelves of a chemists shop than the rows of a vegetable garden.

But according to their creators, these perfect looking vegetables could be the future of food.

In a perfectly controlled and totally sterile environment - uncontaminated by dirt, insects or fresh air - Japanese scientists are developing a new way of growing vegetables.

ozu
Food of the future? Lettuces are grown in a sterile environment at Ozu Corporation's plant factory in Japan - without being exposed to the air outside

Called plant factories, these anonymous looking warehouses have sprung up across the country and can churn out immaculate looking lettuces and green leaves 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Every part of the plant's environment is controlled - from the lighting and temperature, to the humidity and water. Even the levels of carbon dioxide can be minutely altered.

Rather than the conventional scruffy clothes and dirty fingernails of vegetable growers, the producers wear gloves, surgical masks and sort of dust proof protective suits normally seen in chemical plants.

A worker - dressed in sterile clothing - tends to the lettuce at the 'plant factory' 
Those growing the vegetables wear gloves, surgical masks and the sort of dust proof protective suits normally seen in chemical plants

The vegetables from plant factories - which include green leaf, romaine lettuce and garland chrysanthemum - are sold at a premium to Japanese shoppers. No pesticides are used - and there is no risk of contamination with food poisoning bugs.

Because the plants are grown in a clean room, they can be eaten safely without washing. Lettuce grown in the factories can be cropped up to 20 times a year.

Some factories are vast - and can produce three million vegetables a year.

The results are hygienic, but it's about as far from real food as you can possibly get.

Every element of the plant's environment is being controlled
From the lighting to temperature and humidity, every element of the plant's environment is carefully controlled

The spread of plant factories has been encouraged by the Japanese government amid concerns about the use of chemicals in vegetables.

A spokesman for the Ozu Corporation factory in Tokyo said: 'Vegetables are produced in the factory without being exposed to the air outside.

'Stable production is guaranteed throughout the year by controlling lighting, temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide and water. They can also meet the demands of consumers who want safe foods.'

Plant factories have yet to arrive in the UK. The closest Britain has are the vast greenhouses in the south of England where millions of tomatoes are grown hydroponically - without soil.

Souce: dailymail.co.uk

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