It is reported that the use of artificial light sources such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to cultivate vegetables is likely to gain popularity in China. Japanese plant factory startup MIRAI and its Chinese partner companies are striving to promote the technology in China. With nearly 1.4 billion people in China, China’s stable supply of food to the people has always been a topic. For China, cultivation techniques that are not affected by the weather appear to be receiving attention.
Sell to local supermarkets
In the future, Zhinong (Beijing) Technology Co., Ltd. operates a plant factory in China. It absorbed MIRAI's technology and built its first factory in Tongliao, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The lettuce seeds were sown in June 2017 and harvested in late July. They are being sold to local supermarkets and restaurants.
Plant plant of MIRAI grows lettuce by LED (Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture)
The location of this factory is test equipment. In Japan, the plant factory is considered to “produce 10,000 lettuces a day” to obtain sufficient income. The Chinese factory has an area of only 100 square meters, and the output is 500, which is a small plant factory. Through this plant, the future intellectual farmer will master the local Tongliao production costs, logistics system, sales price, etc., while training employees. In the future, Bai Bosuo, chairman of Zhinong, said that he hopes to provide equipment to companies that are interested in building a plant factory, and to provide support for the factory's operating team. He wants to create such a business model.
In the future, Zhinong was founded in 2013 by the company's predecessor company, “Future Daejeon”. Bai Baosuo had gone to Japan to study abroad and worked for a large-scale manufacturer. He took responsibility for the future establishment of Daejeon as an opportunity. However, as MIRAI's predecessor company filed for bankruptcy in 2015, in the future, Chilean farmers will be led by Chinese capital. Entering the terminal cover company, it joined hands with the reorganized MIRAI to restart its business in China.
Unlike Japan, the use of artificial light sources to grow vegetables is almost non-existent in China. In the future, Zhinong will first provide equipment to research institutions and universities, and plans to attract companies that want to build factories that produce thousands to 10,000 vegetables a day, while expanding the market for vegetables. In the autumn of 2017, the future intellectual agriculture is recognized as the "Artificial Light Source Utilization Plant Plant R&D Base" by the National Vegetable Engineering Technology Research Center. While cooperating with Chinese government agencies and universities, the business development environment has also been improved.
Plant factories are divided into two types that use sunlight and artificial light sources like MIRAI. The Netherlands is at the forefront of the world in the field of solar plant plants. The Wageningen University, known for its agricultural research, has developed facilities that precisely control indoor temperature and humidity and significantly increase the yield of tomatoes and red peppers. Starting with Japan and South Korea, the relevant technologies of the Netherlands are being promoted to the world.
In contrast, in the field of artificial light source plant factories using LEDs and fluorescent lamps, Japanese technology is considered to be internationally competitive. Chiba University and others have actively conducted plant plant research. The predecessor company of MIRAI was established using the technology of Chiba University.
Japan's research on plant factories began in the 1970s. It has been at the research stage for many years, for example, to find out which wavelength of light plants it can grow well. Until 2009, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries began to provide assistance, and it has only since then officially developed as a business. In restaurant chains and grocery stores, plant-grown lettuce and nine-story towers (basil) are widely used. At the same time, some supermarkets set up counters for plant vegetables in all stores.
High demand for plant factories in China
However, it is very difficult to further increase the market share of plant vegetable in Japan. Due to the abundant rainfall and warm weather, Japan has a superior natural environment for planting crops. Even without relying on factories, farm products can often be cultivated. In recent years, due to the continued occurrence of weather anomalies in Japan, the presence of plant factories is increasing. However, at the time of the harvest, if the price of vegetables drops, the plant vegetables will disappear from the store. This is not uncommon. Due to high construction fees, electricity bills, labor costs, etc., many vegetable factories have failed to make profits.
In China, the western region is short of water and the northeast region is cold. The meteorological conditions in many regions are harsh and the crops that can be cultivated are limited. In addition, excessive use of pesticides and soil heavy metal pollution, food safety is threatened. For plant factories, these factors will become huge business opportunities. If it is produced at the factory, the risk of pests and diseases is small, and it is not necessary to use pesticides. It can also prevent the contamination of contaminated river water.
Unlike Japan, which has only 40% grain self-sufficiency, it is impossible for China, which has a large population, to rely on imports for most of its food. China has proposed policies to achieve self-sufficiency in rice and wheat, ensuring that domestic food supply has become a major issue for the government. The plant plant's ability to isolate the cultivation environment from the outside and produce safe crops is a powerful option for achieving this goal. The Chinese government is also increasingly concerned about producing vegetables in factories.
In the future, Bai Baosuo of Zhinong said that many researchers have studied at the Chiba University in Chinese plants related to plant factories. Through these contacts, it is possible to expand the technology that Japan has spent for more than 40 years to promote in China.