Toshiba will add a new dimension to its healthcare business by starting production of pesticide-free, long-life vegetables in a closed-type plant factory that operates under almost aseptic conditions.
The company has begun construction of the plant factory at a facility in Yokosuka, Kanagawa prefecture, and will start shipping lettuce, baby leaf greens, spinach, mizuna and other vegetables in the second quarter of FY2014.
Toshiba hopes that by focusing on improving food, water and air quality will help promote its healthcare business, which combines technologies and know-how from across Toshiba Group.
The plant factory is being installed in an idle facility at Yokosuka. It will be equipped with closed growing systems that integrate technologies including : fluorescent lighting with an output wavelength optimized for vegetable growth; air-conditioning systems that maintain constant temperature and moisture level; remote monitoring systems to track growth; and sterilization systems for packing materials. The production management system will be based on that utilized for semiconductor device production.
Plant factories grow vegetables in close to sterile conditions in almost germ-free cleanrooms. Minimizing the entry of germs and the damage that they can do considerably extends the freshness and shelf-life of vegetables, a major concern for retailers of cut vegetables and salads. Toshiba will promote sales to supermarkets, convenience stores and restaurants, and also plans to meet market needs by offering functional vegetables rich in polyphenols and vitamin C, achieved by control of the growth environment. In order to increase sales in this new business, Toshiba is also considering construction a large-scale plant factory outside Japan, and the sale of equipment for plant factory applications within FY2014.