Lettuce grown by Fujitsu? Discover the latest techniques used by Fujitsu to grow healthy and delicious lettuce

People suffering from kidney disease have difficulty eating a lot of raw vegetables

Did you know?
People with kidney disease cannot eat a lot of raw vegetables. This currently affects approximately 13 million people in Japan diagnosed with kidney disease. 1

1 Clinical Practice Guidebook for Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Kidney Disease 2012, compiled by Japanese Society of Nephrology

These people are at risk because of the high levels of potassium in raw vegetables. People with kidney disease are slow to excrete potassium and accumulated potassium in the body will then cause increased levels in the blood which may lead to arrhythmia. To avoid this risk, kidney disease sufferers heat raw vegetables in water as potassium is soluble, or prepare them in some other way to eliminate the potassium.

Lettuce is one of those vegetables which has a high level of potassium. While it is tasty in a salad when it is nice and crispy, people with kidney disease must cook the lettuce before eating it. This obviously often presents a challenge for these people and their families when preparing raw vegetables.

The low-potassium lettuce produced by Fujitsu can be eaten raw even by those people with kidney disease. This is a new and innovative type of lettuce that has approximately 80% less potassium than normal lettuce.

Why does Fujitsu grow lettuce? We investigate some of the reasons behind this initiative.

Lettuce grown in a semiconductor plant

Fujitsu's low-potassium lettuce is grown at the Aizu-Wakamatsu Akisai Vegetable Plant, in Aizu-Wakamatsu City. Actually, this vegetable plant was originally a clean room in a semiconductor plant.

So why does Fujitsu grow lettuce in a clean room?
We asked them to let us have a look inside the plant.

Aizu-Wakamatsu Akisai Vegetable Plant is located in Aizu-Wakamatsu City in Fukushima Prefecture.

The plant started operating as a vegetable factory in 2013, and in January 2014, it launched full-scale production.

We asked Akihiko Sato, Deputy Division Manager of Advanced Agriculture Division at Fujitsu Home & Office Services Limited, why does Fujitsu produce low-potassium lettuce?

"We produce the lettuce with a passion for delivering delicious food to as many people as possible. We want even people with kidney disease to be able to eat fresh raw vegetables. To this end, we are effectively using a clean room at our semiconductor plant for producing vegetables by making use of information and communication technology (ICT)."

By growing lettuce in a clean room where strict sanitary control is already established, Fujitsu can produce lettuce that is truly pesticide-free and has low levels of various germs, as well as low-potassium levels.

Following a sterilization process and putting on special work cloths, we were finally permitted to enter the room. Let's go inside!

After sanitizing and disinfecting hands and feet, we take an air shower for sterilization.

Inside was a clean room that is approximately 2,000 square meters in size. Since fresh air is continuously sent from the ceiling and suctioned away from under the floor, the room is dust free.

The clean room is maintained at a temperature nearly the same as the beginning of spring, which is good for growing vegetables. Of course being inside, they will not be affected by changes in the weather. But still it was hard for us to believe this is a factory for producing plants. After walking through a long corridor, we finally approached the core of the low-potassium lettuce cultivation area.

This is where low-potassium lettuce is grown. Check out the beautiful way that the white artificial light produces a vibrant bright green color on the lettuce.

The most advanced ICT managed vegetable factory!

Since the clean room is under meticulous sanitary control, no one except employees involved in the production of vegetables can normally enter it. So we needed special permission to bring in cameras for shooting.

The full view of the clean room cannot adequately be explained by words or even shown in photographs. Please be sure to check out the video of our report!

First public viewing of a clean room for growing lettuce!

Growing lettuce in a clean room where there is very little dust and most germs have been eliminated means that lettuce is produced that can be eaten without washing. In addition, since the temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, lighting, and other conditions can be perfectly controlled by ICT, a stable yield of high-quality, low-potassium lettuce can be harvested throughout the year. So we now fully understand why Fujitsu uses a clean room for growing vegetables.

Here, we interviewed Haruyasu Miyabe, the Manager of the Production Department at the Advanced Agriculture Division at Fujitsu Home & Office Services Limited, who continues to monitor lettuce grown in the factory every day. We asked him what the key points to growing lettuce are.

The total amount harvested is a crucial point and he commented that "The total yield of low-potassium lettuce, which is harvested about 45 days after planting seeds, is 3,500 heads per day."

This innovative low-potassium lettuce was achieved by Fujitsu's sophisticated control of production conditions, in addition to the patent held by Akita Prefectural University, and the production know-how of Aizufujikako Co., Ltd. These factors successfully reduced the potassium level, which is normally 490 mg per 100 gram by about 80%! 2

2 Standard Tables of Food Composition in Japan (2010)

In addition, the production of this low-potassium adopts Fujitsu's unique technology in agricultural management.

Now let's hear from Akihiko Sato, Deputy Manager, Advanced Agricultural Division, Fujitsu Home & Office Services Limited who describes the Fujitsu Akisai Food and Agriculture Cloud.

Here we aim for integrated management of a lettuce cultivation environment through sensing technology that utilizes various sensors. We have meticulous sanitary control which is a valuable control handed down from the semiconductor plant operation. We also utilized the Fujitsu Akisai Food and Agriculture Cloud.

Controlling Akisai using a tablet (or PC).

While talking with the plant staff we gradually realized that the unique systems managed by Fujitsu are the main reason for their success in growing low-potassium lettuce.

ICT will radically transform the future of agriculture!

We were able to obtain valuable information for this report by entering the clean room at the Aizu-Wakamatsu Akisai Vegetable Plant which can be accessed only by authorized personnel. The low-potassium lettuce grown there has a very crunchy texture and freshness that we have never experienced before.

The basis for success in growing this low-potassium lettuce is ICT, semiconductor facilities, production management know-how, and other technologies that are unique to Fujitsu.

In the future, Fujitsu hopes to help as many people as possible enjoy a wide variety of vegetables in addition to the low-potassium vegetables and gradually expand vegetable production so it can be performed anywhere and in all types of environments.

This plant also accepts visits by elementary and junior high school students so they can learn about the latest farming advancements and teach them the importance of supporting the growth and development of our next-generation. Moreover, with the possibility that the new agriculture produced in Aizu-Wakamatsu may lead to the creation of employment and other factors to help restore the Tohoku region, this initiative will likely serve as a project with a high degree of social significance.

We will continue to monitor the progress of the Aizu-Wakamatsu Akisai Vegetable Plant, which offers possibilities for the future produced through ICT.

Sales for lettuce commenced on May 7, 2014 with special emphasis on hospitals.

This lettuce was first introduced at the Fujitsu Forum 2014 Tokyo.