Sun, Jan 28, 2018 - Page 9 News List

Taiwan ‘plant factory’ may be answer to post-Brexit veg price pressure
英國脫歐蔬菜價揚 台植物工廠或成解藥

By applying advanced technology to farming, such as the use of LED light, leafy crops like lettuce can grow in plant factories at YesHealth iFarm year round.

Photo: CNA

Consumers in the UK have been concerned that after they leave the EU, they could face increased prices in leafy crops that the country depends heavily on other EU members for. They may find a remedy from a plant factory in Taiwan.

Resembling a space station, YesHealth iFarm is a 10-meter, 14-layer vertical farming facility that supports a daily production of 1.6 tonnes of vegetables, making it the largest “plant factory” in Taiwan. It also boasts an area of 240 square meters, and a production yield that is 100 times higher than traditional agriculture.

The idea comes from so-called “plant factories,” which have received growing attention worldwide. They are basically indoor environments using LED lights to grow vegetables year round. The factories use advanced technology to build an artificial system that meets the basic need of plants, such as sunlight, air, water and nutrition. They allow vegetables to grow to maturity in the best environment, no longer affected by the vagaries of nature and man-made pollution. Less labor is needed to tend to the crops compared with traditional farms.

According to the UK’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), foreign grown vegetables contributed to 46 percent of the UK’s total supply in 2016. During that year, vegetable imports reached 6,500 tonnes per day, mainly tomatoes, lettuce and cauliflower, from Spain and the Netherlands. This is why British consumers might feel the heat in the post-Brexit era.

Vertical farming might be the solution, as YesHealth will start running an experimental factory in April in the National Agri-Food Innovation Campus (NAFIC) in York, northern England to tap into that market. YesHealth also wants to sell vegetables in Taiwan, where the amount of land used for growing food has decreased in recent years and the average age of farmers has increased, leading to a shortage of people to work the land.


1. vertical adj.

One obstacle is that vegetables in plant factories are grown in water solvent instead of soil, which makes them more prone to disease. A convenient solution is to use more fertilizers, but that way the vegetables not only become less fertile but also contain a higher level of nitrate, a major health concern.

At least one local government, Taoyuan, is willing to give this way of growing vegetables a try. It will include YesHealth’s factory into Taoyuan’s tourist bus route around March. As the plant factories become part of the tourism resources and walk into people’s lives, they may naturally become a part of the market.








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