Major Japanese consumer electronics companies are getting into agriculture in a big way using high-tech system amid tough competition in the consumer electronics sector.

Panasonic has licensed its first vertical indoor vegetable farm, a sustainable and economical indoor farming technology that can produce a wide range of seasonal crops using soil-based cultivation in controlled environments and Hydroponic type factory which uses water only without soil, in Singapore.

Sharp is growing Japanese strawberries in a special facility at its Jebel Ali office premises in Dubai since last year.

Hydroponic method is used mainly for leafy vegetables while soil type is used for root-type vegetables.

“Crops grown using this technology are not only organic and pesticide free, they also contain low levels of potassium and have a faster growth rate than traditional farming,” Yuko Fukui, manager of green manufacturing innovation centre at Panasonic Japan, told Gulf News.

Panasonic has plants in Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong.

He said that indoor farming will become very popular as the climate is changing every year. Indoor farming has no relation with outside temperature, weather and diseases due to insects.

“The population is growing very fast and urban land for framing is becoming less every year, so indoor farming is the future as vegetable production has faced many challenges in the past due to many natural disasters,” Fukui said.

Alfred Tham Tuck Hian, manager of agricultural business unit at Panasonic Singapore, said that the water used in Hydroponic type factory is treated water which has certain specifications but soil is normal but with certain specifications for photosynthesis.

Panasonic has already tested 30 fruits and leafy vegetables using this method and the research is still going on.

Hian said the photosynthesis is produced by stimulated blue and red LED lights. Sunlight has seven different colours and the LED lights stimulate and produce photosynthesis.

A source close to Sharp said that the company aims to commercialise the facility following repeated tests.

He said that Japanese strawberries are very expensive in the region and at the same time perishable when distributed from abroad.

In Panasonic’s plant in Singapore, the company has produced 3.6 tonnes of vegetables per year in 250 square metres of vertical farming.

“Indoor farming technology is a solution to the global shortage of arable land and water, climate change and increasing demand for quality food as well as stable food supply,” Hian said.