SINGAPORE - Japan's Panasonic Corp, best known for its television sets and home theatre systems, wants to feed Singaporeans its radishes and lettuce.
A unit of the electronics conglomerate last week started selling to a chain of Japanese restaurants in Singapore fresh produce grown in what it says is the first licensed indoor vegetable farm in the island state.
The move ties Panasonic's deeper push into farming technology with land-scarce Singapore's ambition to reduce its near-total reliance on food imports.
"We foresee agriculture to be a potential growth portfolio, given the global shortage of arable land, climate change and increasing demand for quality food as well as stable food supply," Hideki Baba, managing director of Panasonic Factory Solutions Asia Pacific, told reporters.
The facility, which presently has a small production capacity of 3.6 tonnes annually, produces 10 types of vegetables such as mini red radishes and baby spinach.
Indoor farming has found favour with other hi-tech Japanese companies as well. Fujitsu Ltd is growing lettuce at its Fukushima province plant, while Sharp Corp is testing growing strawberries indoors in Dubai.
In Singapore, Panasonic's 248 square meter farm is located inside a factory building on the outskirts of the city, where standard fluorescent lighting gives way to a pinkish-purple glow from LED lights brought in to nurture the plants. The company restricts visitors to maintain the controlled levels of temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide.
It aims to grow more than 30 crop varieties by March 2017 and account for around 5 per cent of local vegetable production. It said the vegetables grown at its facility could be half the price of those flown in from Japan.
Panasonic said Singapore was ideal for its indoor farm due to the country's low food self-sufficiency and limited land.
Singapore, ranked by the World Bank as the second most densely populated country, imports more than 90 per cent of its food.