Japan's chip fabs turn to growing lettuce

May 19, 2014 // By Peter Clarke
Two of Japan's chip companies have decided to grow lettuce and other vegetables in idle semiconductor clean rooms using specialized lighting to replace sunlight.

The clean room environment is dust-free and germ-free, as it would be for the production of integrated circuits. As a result no pesticide is used and the lettuce stays fresher for longer.

Fujitsu Semiconductor and Toshiba Corp have both started to grow greens and believe the tightly-controlled conditions produce superior plants that can be tuned in terms of trace elements and therefore for taste or for specialized diets to meet health-care needs.

Fujitsu has begun selling low-potassium lettuce, grown in a clean room at its semiconductor plant in Aizu-Wakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture. Fukishima is the region that experienced a nuclear reactor meltdown on March 11, 2011. 

Artist's impression of Toshiba cleanroom vegetable facility. Source: Toshiba.

Toshiba has announced a similar initiative and has begun construction of vegetable cleanroom at an idle semiconductor facility in Yokosuka, Kanagawa prefecture. Toshiba plans to start shipping lettuce, baby leaf greens, spinach, mizuna and other vegetables in the summer.