Low-potassium Lettuce for Kidney Disease Patients: Fujitsu Challenges the Use of ICT

At present, the number of kidney disease patients is soaring in Japan. When kidneys fail, potassium intake is restricted and patients have to abstain from eating foods with high potassium levels, such as raw vegetables. To help these patients offset deficiencies in their vegetable intake, Fujitsu has started growing low-potassium lettuce. Capitalizing on know-how accumulated by manufacturing semiconductors to grow vegetables, Fujitsu have been carrying out agricultural management using ICT to optimize cultivation efficiency through developing infrastructure and performing data analysis.

A 2,000 m2 plant factory for growing low-potassium leaf lettuce, the largest in Japan!

Many people are careful about their diets, hoping to stay healthy all the time. Raw vegetables contain nutrients, including vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to people’s health. Among these, potassium is an essential mineral for the human body and considered to be effective in preventing high blood pressure and in ridding the body of waste, which otherwise tends to remain in the kidneys. However, because those required to undergo dialysis and those with kidney disease are subject to restricted potassium intake, they may need to abstain from eating raw vegetables. Fujitsu is committed to mass production of low-potassium vegetables that can safely be eaten by those with dietary restrictions.

Fujitsu has turned a clean room at a semiconductor plant located in Aizu-Wakamatsu City in Fukushima Prefecture into a large-scale plant factory with an area of 2,000 m2. This is the largest low-potassium vegetable plant factory in Japan. Here, Fujitsu has been conducting demonstration experiments for large-scale cultivation of lettuce and have successfully reduced potassium levels under licensing from Aizufujikako Co., Ltd., which succeeded in mass production of lettuce based on Akita Prefectural University’s research results. Lettuce is known to be a vegetable with high potassium levels and as such people with intake restrictions generally avoid eating it. Fujitsu has entered a totally new field, agriculture, and has been conducting such demonstration experiments with the aim of enabling dialysis and kidney disease patients (estimated to be approximately 600 million worldwide) to eat lettuce and other tasty raw vegetables.

Mass production to start in January 2014: shipping 3,500 heads per day by improving productivity with Akisai Food and Agriculture Cloud

These demonstration experiments have been conducted by a consortium consisting of Fujitsu, locally-based Aizufujikako Co., Ltd., Fukushima Medical University, and other organizations as part of the Verification Project for an Industrialization System for Advanced Agriculture for FY2013 by the Reconstruction Agency and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Fujitsu has long engaged in initiatives to support agriculture, improve productivity, and increase agricultural management efficiency with ICT. At its Numazu Plant, Fujitsu runs its own farm and implements systematic, efficient farm management practices. We use the Akisai Food and Agriculture Cloud to clarify the costs and profit margins of radishes and carrots as well as analyze various kinds of data to determine the optimal time for fertilization. Use of Akisai is also part of this project; Fujitsu have been improving productivity by continuously analyzing cultivation data and efficiently managing operations from production to sales. Fujitsu are also conserving energy by developing an optimal infrastructure environment for a low-potassium vegetable plant factory based on know-how we have accumulated through managing semiconductor manufacturing plants.

The demonstration experiments will be conducted from July 2013 to the end of March 2014. Fujitsu already started production of samples of low-potassium lettuce in October 2013, and we plan to mass-produce and ship 3,500 heads per day starting in January 2014. Fujitsu then plan to deliver low-potassium vegetables to those who need them, when, and in the amounts they are needed, by utilizing delivery and sales channels for home delivery of fresh produce as well as other channels for delivering medicines and other items to the elderly. Traceability for these vegetables will also be established so customers can purchase them with a sense of security.