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Friday, June 1, 2012

10 households in Chiba to test indoor 'plant factory'


KASHIWA, Chiba Pref. — Households may soon be able to grow vegetables and herbs indoors using an upcoming mini "plant factory."

On Monday, a consortium including Chiba University and Panasonic Corp. said it will launch a one-year pilot program to grow lettuce and basil with a prototype machine in September. The trial will cover about 10 households in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture.

In the program, users will be instructed on cultivation methods by Mirai Inc., which grows lettuce and other vegetables at its commercial plant factory.

The prototype machine, roughly the size of a small refrigerator, features light-emitting diodes inside to stimulate photosynthesis. Liquid fertilizer is used to grow vegetables.

The device helps plants grow faster than they do with outdoor farming. Lettuce takes only around 40 days from planting to harvest.

Water temperatures and other growth conditions are controlled by a personal computer.

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