"Despite the global downtrend vertical farming has experienced in the past year, in Japan more and more retailers and foodservice companies are keen on working with us due to rapid price changes and instability of the outdoor produce due to climate change, decreasing agricultural population and other challenges," says Yurii Voronkov, Public Relations at Spread Co., Ltd., a Japanese vertical farming firm.
"We have an increasing number of inquiries from overseas as well, with some looking quite promising. I hope that we will have some exciting news to tell in this field," Yurii adds.
What's happening in 2024?
As Yurii explains, 2024 year is a very important year for Spread as both the abovementioned Techno Farm Fukuroi and Techno Fresh Hadano will start operations. Techno Farm Fukuroi will produce 10 tons of lettuce of which 8 tons will go to the Hadano facility.
The Fukuroi farm will also have 80% of all operations fully automated, while Hadano will have 85% of its operations automated, and it employs cutting-edge technology, such as an AI-enabled lettuce core removing robot.
Due to mass automation and even stricter hygiene guidelines, the product will be extra clean and won’t require any washing before eating.
With the new INDOOR brand that Spread launched recently, the team feels that customers value its product development strength and therefore Spread is looking forward to a lot of promises in the coming year.
Producing 8 tons a day
Traditionally, fresh-cut vegetables require viable bacteria count to be lower than 1,000,000 for 1g of the product. Due to this, the shelf life for fresh-cut lettuce in Japan is commonly set at 3-4 days.
To remedy the perishability of the product, the Techno Fresh processing method uses pesticide-free lettuce, grown in a highly hygienic environment within Techno Farm and combines it with the in-house developed processing technologies that prevent bacteria from increasing.
Comparative Data for Techno Fresh (changes over time) *2
Changes in viable bacterial count on Techno Fresh cut lettuce
Sample size: n=13 (Click here to zoom the photo)
Through this method, Spread was able to enhance the shelf life of the cut lettuce by up to 2 times and has become the first company to achieve a record-breaking 6 days shelf life for a fresh-cut lettuce product in Japan. Additionally, the Techno Fresh method prevents lettuce from discoloration.
The new facility “Techno Fresh Hadano” is not a vertical farm,
but a salad processing plant that will produce fresh-cut salad using Spread’s vertically farmed lettuce, produced at Techno Farm Fukuroi. The facility is located in an area of 4,800 m2 and will produce 8 tons of fresh-cut lettuce products per day.
Changes in visual appearance of Techno Fresh vs typical cut lettuce (Click here to zoom the photo)
Milestones from 2023
Looking back at 2023, Spread let us know that 2023 was a year of preparations for them. "We feel proud that we managed to proceed according to the schedule regarding Techno Farm Fukuroi’s development (start of operation planned for early 2024)."
On top of that, the team was rather happy to receive the 2023 Vertical Farming World Awards with the Techno Fresh processing method.