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Tokyo – a city of 14 million – Attracts Indoor Robotic Lettuce Farm

Touch the Soil News #205

Recently, Fast Coexist reported on a massive indoor farm in the works in Japan. The farming company “SPREAD” already raises lettuce and supplies some 2,000 stores around Tokyo. The new indoor farm seeks to cut labor through automation and produce food locally for a nation that must import 60 percent of its food.

California Lettuce Field - Will high tech start encroaching on traditional soil farming? (photo courtesy of NRCS)

Fast Coexist Journalist Adele Peters reports on the plans.

  1. Robots will plant lettuce seeds, transplant them, raise them and automatically carry the heads to a packing line where they are readied for local grocery stores. This new model expects to cut labor costs by 50 percent.
  2. Projections are that the indoor farm will grow 10 million heads of lettuce each year – or 30,000 heads a day.
  3. The building in which the farm is housed is totally sealed resulted in no need for pesticides or herbicides.
  4. New technology will allow the farm to recycle 98 percent of its already limited water use.
  5. The ultra-efficient lighting system can run on renewable energy.


This robotic farm, and the larger techno landscape of increasing robotics, capitalizes on the elimination or reduction of labor. This raises the questions of humans who need to buy food. In a world of growing robotic applications, will it be government welfare programs that give the unemployed the purchasing power to buy robot-produced food?

Projections are that the new indoor farm will open sometime in 2017. Spread indoor farms is not the only purveyor of indoor hydroponic lettuce. A little over a year ago another large enterprise in Japan opened up which is able to produce 10,000 heads of lettuce a day – one third of what Spread hopes to do.

Following is a short video of the farm – created by Shigeru Shimamura – that Spread will be competing against.

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