According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, companies such as Fujitsu, Toshiba, and Panasonic are beginning to grow produce such as lettuce and strawberries where silicon chips were once grown instead.
As it turns out, the clean rooms designed by electronics makers to main perfectly sterile manufacturing conditions for computer equipment also makes for ideal greenhouse conditions. In fact, because it is grown in a bacteria-free space, lettuce from a Fujitsu plant can allegedly keep in a refrigerator for as long as two months without spoiling.
Why are electronics makers turning into farmers? As an ever-increasing share of electronics manufacturing is outsourced to countries like China, Japan’s gadget makers have found themselves looking to repurpose the factories they’ve been forced to shut down. Fujitsu had previously attempted to turn these decommissioned factories into call and data centers, but had difficulty getting regulatory approval to turn these old factories into call centers and data centers.
But in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster, where the region suffered an earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown, Fujitsu had an easier time finding approval to convert its factory there into an agricultural growth center as the Japanese government tries to restructure the industry from one dominated by local, aging farmers, into a more efficient, price-friendly operation run by larger companies. Fukushima is one of the biggest agricultural regions in Japan, and has had a hard time recovering. They began sponsoring tech-companies to take up the slack.
For now, these so-called high-tech vegetables command a premium price of about triple what normal vegetables cost, but if production volume rises prices are expected to drop. And for electronics companies who have spent so many decades turning their backs on the environment, agriculture might represent not only a more sustainable future, but a redemption of sorts.
[via the Wall Street Journal]