What would you not expect to find underneath an office block in the heart of Tokyo’s business district? That’s right – a farm – and what’s more it’s open to the public so you can go check it out the next time you’re in Japan. You might think that sunlight and fresh air was necessary for growing crops – but the Pasona O2 Urban Farm seems to prove that wrong.
The farm occupies the ground and first floors of a newly built office block. Visible from the street outside is the rice paddy that occupies the entrance lobby, while flowers, herbs, melons and various vegetables are grown in other rooms. Energy-efficient LEDs and spotlights are used to provide the energy the plants need to grow, and the temperature of the whole complex is carefully controlled by computer to optimize the crop yields. This system works so well that the farm manages to produce three rice crops a year. A big advantage of growing plants indoors is that it keeps them away from natural pests, so there’s no need to use pesticides – meaning that the produce is 100% organic.
The set-up for each type of crop is different – and in total there are around 100 different kinds of produce. The tomatoes are grown hydroponically, using water rather than soil, and trail down from trellises on the ceiling. Seeds are sprouted in drawers to make maximum use of the available space, and beans grow up the walls. Perhaps oddest of all are the lettuces: shelves of lettuces are stacked four high, and each shelf is brightly illuminated by its own array of fluorescent tubes. Other crops are grown amongst the office space on the upper floors of the building, but these areas aren’t open to the public.