Space is precious in Japan, which has five times the population of Texas in about half the area. It stands to reason, therefore, that if anyone built a working farm in a bank vault, it would be the Japanese:
Though walled in from sunlight, weather and geology, it’s unbelievably verdant. Tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, and other fruits and vegetables, as well as flowers and herbs, are grown in an area about 1,000 square meters. There is even a terraced rice paddy.
A thousand square meters is about the size of my yard, so this must be one heck of a bank vault. Some background:
The hi-tech vegetable patch, called Pasona O2, is located in the Otemachi Nomura Building in the Tokyo district of Otemachi, where many major corporations have their headquarters. The building, which has 27 floors above ground and five below, used to be home to Tokyo Life Insurance and Resona Bank (formerly Daiwa Bank). But these firms have left, and office space in the building is now leased to several different companies. This project was launched by the temporary staffing agency Pasona Inc. When Pasona moved its headquarters to this building, it decided to lease the second basement floor formerly the Resona Bank vault and turn it into a vegetable garden.
In the absence of sunlight, the plants are sustained by artificial light from light-emitting diodes, metal halide lamps, and high-pressure sodium vapor lamps. The temperature of the room is controlled by computer, and the vegetables are grown by a pesticide-free method in which fertilizer and carbon dioxide are delivered by spraying. Hydroponics, in which plants are grown in water and hardly any soil is used, is one of the methods of cultivation used in the facility. Technical assistance in setting up the indoor farm was provided by Professor Masamoto Takatsuji of Tokai University, who is researching such projects, which are known as “plant factories.”
All this high-tech stuff, they hope, will attract young people to agriculture. Maybe it will work. I have no idea whether you can keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen the Ginza, but I have to admit, I like the idea, even if my own approach to growing stuff is decidedly low-tech.