Spread Co. to Begin Construction of a Fully Automated Lettuce Factory in Spring 2016
KYOTO, JAPAN - Are lettuce factories the way of the future? Japan seems to think so.
We’ve seen Japanese electronics companies like Toshiba and Panasonic delve into the world of produce with their own lettuce factories. Now, Spread Co., a vegetable factory operator based in Kyoto, is evolving the concept even further with the world’s first fully automated lettuce factory.
Capable of producing 30,000 heads of lettuce per day from seeding to harvest, the robotic lettuce factory will be a vertical farm spread out over 4,400 square meters and includes R&D and testing facilities. The total cost of the facility is 1.6 billion to 2 billion yen (approximately $13 million to $16 million U.S.) with annual sales estimated at 1 billion yen ($8 million U.S.). In five years, the company expects to produce 500,000 heads of lettuce per day and hopes to expand its franchise business worldwide.
Construction is set to start in spring 2016 with shipments to begin in summer 2017.
According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Spread Co. says there are six stages to growing lettuce at a factory: seeding, germination, raising the seedlings, transplanting them into a larger bed, raising the vegetable, and harvesting. WSJ reports that the company is currently working on a machine that can oversee the seeding process. Though germination still requires a human presence, every other process is fully automated.
Stacker cranes deliver lettuce seedlings to robots which handle the transplanting process. The automated process also handles control, humidity, level of carbon dioxide, sterilization of water, and lighting hours, according to WSJ.
Founded in 2006, Spread Co. ships “Vege-tus” brand lettuce produced at one of the world’s largest vegetable factories using artificial lighting in Kameoka in Kyoto Prefecture. These specially made lettuce heads can be found in 2,000 stores in the Tokyo metropolitan area and the Kansai region.