Technology

Portable vegetable factories

Mitsubishi has a novel solution to the world's food problems: a farm in a box.

For all the vitriol directed against “factory farming,” you would be hard pressed to find an argument against Mitsubishi Chemical Corp.’s latest concept — the portable vegetable factory. Resembling a shipping container from the outside, measuring 12.2 by 2.4 by 2.9 metres, each insulated unit can grow up to 2,000 leafy vegetables at a time with the capability of harvesting 50 plants each day. What’s more is that all of this is done without soil and — because of the tightly controlled environment — without the use of pesticides.

The plants are arranged in tiers of shelves and grown hydroponically under LED lighting. This not only uses less water than traditional cultivation but also produces a higher yield. If electrical power is your concern, fear not. The units are partially powered by solar panels and lithium ion batteries. Considering the precarious nature of the global food market, all of this is good news, particularly for nations where arable land is tight and those that have crippling short growing seasons. Because the units are able to produce crops year-round, they mitigate the high cost of importing food and keep drastic price fluctuation to a minimum. At $750,000 per unit, the portable farms aren’t cheap, but Mitsubishi has already received interest and will be delivering the first unit to Qatar this month.