Farming has been an important part of human development for centuries. When people realized that they could manipulate food to grow in a certain way and at a certain time, it changed the way people gathered and ate food forever. Farming has been extremely important for many years, and for a long time, only the food that could grow naturally in certain areas and times of year was able to be grown. However, with modern science, that too is changing. We can grow fresh fruit and vegetables all year round, and genetically modify plants to grow bigger and be less susceptible to pests. We can eat food from other countries very easily with just a trip to the supermarket, something our ancestors will never even have dreamed of doing. That in itself is incredible. With the world’s growing population and the ever-increasing demand for food, farming is becoming more important than ever.
When you think of a farm, what most likely comes to mind first is a stretch of rural landscape, perhaps with fields and animals spread around a naturally wide-open space. But can you imagine what farming might look like in downtown Tokyo, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world? Is it even possible, you may ask? You might be surprised to find out it is most definitely within the realms of possibility, and it is called high-tech urban farming. This innovation may well be the answer to food supply problems we might have to face in the future, as well as an incredible opportunity to use urban space to grow food.
Considered to be the farm of the future, Pasona O2 is located underneath the office block of the Pasona Building in the middle of Tokyo, near Tokyo Station, although if you went there, you would never be able to guess that there was an urban farm nearby! The farm occupies a total of 10,000 square feet in six separate rooms. It was created by the Pasona Group, a company that specializes in Human Resources, to spark a new interest in farming and the lifestyle that comes with it among urbanites, and to make people think about the way they use their environment. If this concept spreads, we could well be on our way to making self-sufficient cities and potentially be able to feed many more people.
Pasona O2 relies on modern technology to provide an optimal growing condition for the crops indoors. Since the crops don’t receive any direct light energy from the sun, energy-efficient LEDs have been set up to do this job. To avoid the lamps from becoming overheated, they are carefully monitored via a computerized system. This also gives an appropriate environment for the crops to yield an optimal amount of produce. This development alone could provide great solutions to places where there isn’t sufficient sunlight to grow certain crops.
Another method used in this incredible farm is hydroponic growing. This comes from two Greek words: “hydro” meaning water and “ponic” meaning labor. The concept focuses on soil gardening without using soil, which is believed to allow plants to grow 30% to 50% faster. Plus, it requires less energy to break down food compared to growing crops the regular way, by using soil.
This underground farm produces over a hundred different types of fruits and vegetables. Besides fruits and vegetables, herbs, flowers, and even rice are also grown here. In order to make maximum use of all spaces – a custom that the Japanese are very good at – the seeds are grown in drawers! Tomatoes are grown hydroponically, and you can even see the plants trailing down from the ceilings; some call this “vertical farming”. Some types of produce are shelved, such as the lettuces, with each shelf receiving light from a different source. It really is a sight to behold.
Pasona O2 is located in the same building as the Pasona company itself. It also has a cafe where you can drink coffee with a great view of the farm’s spectacular vegetables. It is open for public viewing and there is no admission fee. If you happen to be around the Tokyo Station area, which is close to the Imperial Palace Gardens, you should definitely check out Pasona O2 for a fascinating look at how modern technology can hopefully benefit mankind. It is open for public viewing on weekdays from 9.30am to 5.30pm.
NOTE: As of April 28th 2017 the publc viewing is over, as Pasona’s office has now moved.
Pasona O2 aims to influence the younger generations and awakening their agricultural interests once again without disturbing their desire to live in the city. They have actually been promoting this concept since 2003 and are hoping to create more jobs in agriculture in the future by providing people with resources to try and become self-sufficient farmers in the future. Visiting this unique place will definitely change your outlook on farming, and you might even feel like starting your own indoor mini garden in your home! Be sure to visit Pasona O2 during your next visit to Tokyo.