by Amber

Spinach, TVs, Home Theaters, and Radishes

Sounds like a Walmart shopping list, but it’s not. Electronics manufacturer, Panasonic, now has an urban farming division. Talk about diversity, the distance between making TVs and growing veggies is pretty big. However, Panasonic didn’t become the globally known brand that they are without making wise decisions. It’s unlikely that this will be a flash in the pan diversion. They are just as savvy to the food supply problems as the next guy anywhere in the world. Maybe more so with their South Asia division being in a country that imports over 90% of it’s food.

It’s a first for the electronics giant, and for Singapore. Panasonic has the first licensed indoor agricultural operation in the country. How they jumped from visual electronics to growing veggies isn’t clear, but they have jumped in with both feet. Currently, Panasonic has 10 different crops in production with an annual harvest capacity of 3.6 tons, and plans to expand their farm to 30 crops in less than 3 years. Their goal is to produce at least 5% of Singapore’s food, helping to alleviate total dependence on foreign produce to sustain the population.

Electronics Giant a.k.a. Urban Farmer: Panasonic Grows Local in SingaporeSo, where is this indoor farm? It’s in Singapore, a country that has little land and imports most of it’s food. Population density there is 9th in the world, and the government is interested in the possibilities of indoor growing – so much so that they’ve provided some funding assistance to a small start up known as Sky Farm that is growing three stories of food in towering glass houses. No one in Singapore knew that Panasonic was getting into food production, let alone had a farm on the city limits until their lettuces and radish crop hit the commercial market a couple of weeks ago as a supplier for Ootoya restaurant chain.

There are no GMOs or pesticides in use. Obviously, they’ve been at this for a while, and have long since evolved from the testing phase. They must have if they’re already a supplier to a multiple location eatery, and have about 2670 square feet (248 m2) dedicated to growing. They aren’t stopping there either, not if they’re going to supply 5% of Singapore’s food needs, and triple the number of vegetables they grow. With a population of 5.31 million and more than 90% of the fresh produce being imported, they’ve certainly established their urban farm in a promising market. They aren’t the first Japanese electronics company to do so though, Sharp is growing in Dubai, and Fujitsu in Fukushima, Japan.

Instead of worrying about erecting greenhouses, the electronics giant quietly converted a section of it’s Singapore factory to house their indoor gardens. They probably made just about everything in-house too. That’s the idea you get from their news channel video below:

You did catch that, didn’t you? They’ve developed science, programming, and equipment in the process of becoming indoor growers. Like – what ARE they doing there with the lettuce plant, the laptop, and the intense lights on that table? Obviously measuring something. It’ certainly isn’t just weight or size, whatever data those two guys are checking out on that laptop screen appears to be far more scientific than that.

Makes you wonder if Panasonic will soon become a member of indoor growing monitor manufacturers, perhaps even indoor garden equipment. If so, it will start out targeting large-scale indoor farming, and attract interest globally.

“We foresee agriculture to be a potential growth portfolio, given the global shortage of arable land, climate change and increasing demand for quality food as well as stable food supply.” ~ ~ Hideki Baba, managing director of Panasonic Factory Solutions Asia Pacific

Naturally, there is more money in technology than farming, which is exactly why Sharp is growing strawberries in Dubai. Their focus is in developing the technology for the future of factory farming… indoors. And, while Panasonic may be helping to make Singapore a more sustainable place, it’s more likely that they’ve also got an eye on keeping up with the competition, which if you’re breaking new ground, means getting your hands dirty. They may be saving food stores and restaurants 50% of their costs compared to their traditional imported sources, but when TV production evolves into growing spinach, lettuce, and other foods, something bigger is afoot. Smart thinking though, all incubation projects should produce a revenue stream instead of being a liability… in a perfect world.

The largest market on the planet isn’t cellphones or home theater, it’s food. Everyone needs that, every day. It’s not a luxury item, it’s a necessity, regardless of income level or location.

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The garden played a starring role from spring through fall in the house Amber was raised in. She has decades of experience growing plants from seeds and cuttings in the plot and pots.