METI to promote factory farming

JIJI

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will invite companies to join its test project for exporting vegetables and fruit grown in factories.

METI, which requested ¥680 million for the project in the 2013 budget, will soon solicit participants. It is looking to select two to three corporate groups involved in production, processing and export of agricultural products.

The project is designed to explore overseas sales networks, grasp local needs, help participants develop products and encourage other companies to emulate successful models.

The ministry will also help companies develop efforts to grow vegetables in factories abroad. The goal is to boost the farm industry before Japan joins the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, a free-trade pact that many farmers view as a danger to their livelihoods.

Produce factories grow food by using computers to control environmental conditions such as light, temperature and carbon dioxide concentrations. Since they are not affected by weather, output can be adjusted to demand. Use of chemicals and pesticides is also minimized, increasing their appeal as a source of safe produce.

Lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries and bell peppers are among the vegetables and fruit produced in factories for domestic consumption. The ministry wants to take advantage of demand in other parts of Asia to develop Japanese agriculture into a growth industry as the domestic market shrinks.

It hopes the use of produce factories, modeled on the success Holland has had in expanding agricultural exports, will help boost the Japanese agricultural sector’s international competitiveness.