“LED Vegetable Gardening” Draws Attention in Japan’s Architecture Industry, May Develop into a Profitable Business

Using LEDs as light sources in vegetable gardening is a new business opportunity in Japan, according to a recent Sankei Biz report. Large Japanese real estate developers, consumer electronics manufacturers, and architecture firms are utilizing their advantages to quickly set up their business models in this emerging market.

To secure top positions in Japan’s real estate market, an emerging trend has been the involvement of developers into the agriculture industry.

Large Japan real estate developer Asahi Kasei Homes aims to launch home vegetable gardening equipment by 2014. Another big Japanese construction company, Obayashi Corporation, is preparing to move into the agricultural production field, while Nishimatsu Construction plans to increase vegetable production by five folds.

Real estate developers fervently conduct empirical research in the wake of “home farming” business opportunities

Asahi Kasei Homes is currently conducting LED vegetable gardening experiments at a house located in Fuji city, Shizuoka prefecture.

Asahi Kasei Homes President Masahito Hirai showed confidence in the vegetables’ marketability, stating, “The vegetables grown with LED lights look green and delicious, they probably taste very good.”

According to sources familiar with the matter, the new home farming business mainly uses LED for lighting and applies hydroculture, a farming method based on water solutions and does not require use of soil. Users can easily enjoy farming at home.

However, this new business opportunity has presented a small challenge. The home gardened vegetables have a growth cycle of about 40 days, and after the first crops are harvested it takes awhile before the second batch can be cultivated, said Hirai. Despite the waiting period, Asahi still plans to commercialize LED farming next year, since vegetable gardening can become a highlight in interior decoration and spice up home owners’ life.

Electronics related to LED vegetable gardening can be sighted in Japanese home appliance super markets.

According to the report, Yamazen in Japan has been selling LED vegetable gardening product, “Home Vegetable Garden,” at the price of about 9,980 Japanese Yen since last December.
Mitsui Fudosan, a Panasonic company, is conducting experiments in Kashiwashi city, in Chiba prefecture and plans to release white “LED Vegetable Gardening” home appliances on the market.

Taking advantage of construction experiences accumulated over the years, LED vegetable gardening is attracting the attention of Japanese construction companies, and offering promising prospects of becoming the next big thing for the industry.

Obayashi intends to officially move into the agricultural industry with “LED Vegetable Garden” sometime after 2014. The Asahi report noted, Obayashi not only plans to research on “home farming” system and equipments with Chiba University at the moment, but also plans to operate a vegetable factory to grow and sell its own vegetables.

Nishimatsu Construction and Tamagawa University have jointly launched the “LED vegetable garden” project in 2012 to increase vegetable production by five folds from the current 600 vegetables per day to 3,000. Vegetables produced from the project will be sold at supermarkets in Tokyo and other regions. It is hoped the project will generate real income for the company.

The scale of companies in Japan using man made light sources in plant factories will reach 19,000 square meters, an increase of 3.7 times compared to 2011, according to a survey by market research company, Fuji-Keizai Group.

A research report by Yano Research, however, pointed out that the expansion of LED vegetable gardening will be affected by how well plant factories adopt cultivation technologies and handle operation costs.

Whether the emerging “LED vegetable garden” will reap fruits of success will depend on how hard Japanese companies work during critical periods over the next few years to overcome difficulties.

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