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From tech to agtech: Panasonic’s indoor farm

The technology giant's Singapore operation has ventured into hydroponic vegetable farming in a bid to improve Singapore's self-sufficiency.

Panasonic, the Japanese technology giant, is farming vegetables in a hydroponic indoor farm in Singapore and selling them to a local restaurant chain as part of a pilot initiative to improve Singapore’s self-sufficiency.

Panasonic Factory Solutions Asia Pacific has started growing a range of Japanese vegetable varieties including mini red radish, red leafy lettuce and mizuna (potherb lettuce). The pilot program is funded by the company but Panasonic is applying for a government grant from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority’s Food Fund, to develop the project further.

The firm wants to invest about $3 million over the three years until the end of March 2017 to produce 1,000 tonnes; the farm’s current annual production capacity is 3.6 tonnes.

“With over 90 percent of the food consumed in Singapore being imported, Panasonic hopes the indoor vegetable farm can contribute to the nation’s food self-sufficiency levels and at the same time provide a better life and a better world through improved food quality,” said Hideki Baba, managing director, Panasonic Factory Solutions Asia Pacific in a statement.

It also wants to add to its list of offtake agreements; currently Ootoya, a Japanese restaurant chain with outlets in Singapore, is the only buyer of its produce.

This isn’t the first time a tech company has entered the hydroponic farming industry. Fujitsu, the third largest IT company in the world, began growing lettuce in its hydroponic facility last year. The company grows the lettuce using its Akisai cloud platform. Sensors enable the platform to control the temperature, fertilisation levels and humidity of the facility. Fujitsu is targeting the health sector with its low potassium lettuce, which is suitable for chronic kidney disease patients.