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The Subterranean Farms of Tokyo
Pasona O2

While we're on the subject of things agricultural and of things covered by just about everyone long before today, there is Pasona O2, a subterranean farm cultivated inside a former bank vault beneath a high rise building in one of Tokyo's business districts.

Pasona O2

Though walled in from sunlight, weather and geology, it's unbelievably verdant. Tomatoes, lettuces, strawberries, and other fruits and vegetables, as well as flowers and herbs, are grown in an area about 1,000 square meters. There is even a terraced rice paddy.

Pasona O2

Pasona O2

Pasona O2

Pasona O2

Pasona O2

This is all done, by the way, in a very hi-tech fashion. Computers control the temperature and light, which in this case is artificially generated by LEDs, halide lamps and sodium vapor lamps.

Carbon dioxide, we read, is delivered by spraying.

Pasona O2

Understandably, people have wondered what the energy requirement is for these “plant factories,” worried that a basement greenhouse might be too inefficient for a wider application.

Of course, any highly unsustainable demand for energy can easily be offset by drilling miles deep into Japan's tectonic landscape to generate hydrothermal energy.

Pasona O2

Pasona O2

But what exactly is the purpose of Pasona O2? Certainly it is not where cutting edge agritechnology and biotechnology research is being done. Nor does it grow its produce to sell on the market. It doesn't even pretend to be a model for future food production in Japan whose farming population continues to dwindle.

In actuality, it was built primarily as a demonstration and training facility for jobless young people who see a career in agriculture as a possibility. Though not really plugged in to the youth culture of Japan, we'll say that the presence of all that hi-tech equipment can do a long way to maintain interest.

Pasona O2

In any case, all our sources are from over two and half years ago, and in searching for updates to use here, we didn't come across any that wasn't written in Japanese.

Perhaps you might know of some?

Cave Pharming
  • mark
  • February 13, 2008 at 1:44:00 PM CST
  • bizarre how any picture of indoor, large scale cultivation immediately calls to mind covert marijuana grow ops. it must be the grow lights, because every time i see a picture vaguely resembling these i get a sense of criminality.

  • Jimmy Stamp
  • February 13, 2008 at 7:14:00 PM CST
  • Criminality or...THE FUTURE. Some of those photographs remind me of the oxygen garden from the movie SunshinE

  • Anonymous
  • February 15, 2008 at 10:00:00 PM CST
  • Hardly criminality. The primary reason pot is illegal in the USA is simply: the hemp plant is a miracle it produces paper fabric building materials and unlimited clean burning petroleum (can be used to fuel all vehicles or converted for use in fuel cells and to heat homes very cheaply. It has been proven to enrich the land and you can have five full crop rotations per year easily. In short it is a major competitive threat to big oil big forestry and other industries. The USA constitution was made from hemp for heavens sake. The crime is that we don't grow it! The pigs in government that are paid off by the hoods in big corporations and we just set back and let them do it with OUR MONEY!!

    I just love the ultra efficient use of LED lights at this growing facility. That is really an amazing story. Our future is bright if and only if we stop letting them run us like puppets and take back our world.

  • Anonymous
  • February 16, 2008 at 4:08:00 PM CST
  • That's actually pretty cool. Maybe this could lead to a sustainable model for the future across the world.

    At worst, it could be a Japanese way of relieving stress with a "gardening" past-time during the work day - or something...

    If you're a drudge fan:

  • Anonymous
  • February 17, 2008 at 6:01:00 AM CST
  • Actually, when one looks at the amount of fossil fuels required to plant, cultivate, harvest, and transport foods, this type of growing is incredibly efficient. I have done consulting for a business of this type in the US. Especially when you consider they will get close to 100% usable product, versus traditional farming's much lower yield per plant.

  • Anonymous
  • February 22, 2008 at 3:52:00 AM CST
  • Men will survive for ever... thats for sure...

  • Anonymous
  • February 22, 2008 at 5:26:00 AM CST
  • @James White
    Er...sounds like you have been smoking just a bit too much of it lately... :-)

  • Unknown
  • February 26, 2008 at 8:33:00 AM CST
  • Always amazing how when someone talks about the advantages of hemp, someone else immediately denegrates their points as trivial, stupid and non-relevent.

    This farming concept is amazing all around though and can be used to grow ANYTHING.

  • Anonymous
  • February 26, 2008 at 6:29:00 PM CST
  • Um... 1000 Square METERS does NOT equal "almost a square kilometer"

  • Alexander Trevi
  • February 26, 2008 at 7:12:00 PM CST
  • Hey Vonskippy, when we accessed this site, the phrase "an area of about 1,000 square meters" read "nearly a kilometer." We're not sure though, so we checked the page on Unfortunately, it's not being cached.

    Good thing we have a second source. From article from The Japan Times, we read: " in six rooms of greenhouses covering almost a square kilometer, where once bullion and bills were stacked, now vegetables, rice, herbs and flowers grow in an environment that is almost entirely chemical-free."

    For what it's worth, I think "1,000 square meters" is a more believable figure.

  • Alexander Trevi
  • February 26, 2008 at 9:53:00 PM CST
  • UPDATE: I emailed Pasona and they replied back.

    "Your question about how much space this facility: Approximately 1000 square

    The post has been revised accordingly.

  • Anonymous
  • March 7, 2008 at 6:31:00 AM CST
  • Kewl. Any idea what they are using for polinators?

  • Anonymous
  • September 2, 2008 at 5:59:00 AM CDT
  • Cool stuff. I live in Tokyo and I'm curious if it is open to visitors.

  • Unknown
  • October 6, 2009 at 6:03:00 PM CDT
  • The number one cause for global warming is not necessarily emmissions from vehicles and factories. the number one cause is deforestation!! The number one cause for deforestation is not urban development. IT IS FARMING!!! The world needs to open their eyes and STOP farming on land and farm only inside multilevel buildings in order to stop tearing down forrests. If you think about it even after all the millions of tons of CO2 we spew into the air, our world is still functional. That must meen one thing. It meens that the only thing stopping this world from totally heating up is the fact that we still have forest land left which seems to be ultimately much more important to maintain the balance of CO2 than any other factor.

    I think this is a great idea and the world should follow their example.

  • Anonymous
  • November 21, 2009 at 5:11:00 AM CST
  • Yeah, someone has money to help the jobless. That's nice.
    In terms of sustainability however you might want to examine the photos in a little more detail before taking this system for the long-haul. Please make the distinction between what you are looking at that grows and what you are looking at that does not grow. The last time I checked plastic wall panels, metal racks, light bulbs, transformers, electrical cables, drop ceiling, and high-tech HV systems don't grow on trees -they come from factories. When they wear out you have to order new ones. And then there is all that you do not see. The water, the growing medium, and the fertilizer has to come from somewhere. So don't be too quick to trade the sun, the hydrosphere, and the surface open agroecosystem for an underground synthetic closed ecosystem that might unknowingly (despite that high-tech HV system) play host to an opportunistic species of the 1.5 billion year old fungal kingdom.
    Mother nature is a tough bitch, and she will kick your ass if you try to break too many of her rules in the same place at the same time.

  • Anonymous
  • December 22, 2009 at 5:37:00 PM CST
  • well said but anyhow we have to try it out....even if all tests fail so we invent a new way anyhow we already know in percentages what the near future is gonna be. fortunately i live in a country that has it all. anyways we do think a lot on sustainable in our back minds... not the way as you study per se in Universities but past on as cultural knwoledge... so calm down. anyway our lives are like a spark. compared to the universe we are just a shooting star.... and you all need to visit other cities and not be so self centered... universe is not around tokio. or some other main city in the world. shold travel more.

  • Unknown
  • March 13, 2010 at 8:49:00 AM CST
  • The only thing I wonder is the ecosystem balanceing.When mankind try to create a perfect system for growing cops inside a building, would they just consider the yield or nutritional value or even investment or sort of that stuff? The nature has its own sets of rule for the fitness to survive, not only us but for all creatures , including all bacteria and fungi, so we will libe ina world without all of them , but what about our body anti-infection system hwich depends on the invasion of certain virus to build up our own body defence system? It sounds a bit over wary but I suggest that it cannot replace traditional growing or mankind has to completely depends on it.

  • Grace
  • November 30, 2010 at 8:09:00 PM CST
  • "What do they use for pollinators?" Good question! You can't pollinate tomatoes with a paintbrush.

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