Under the name “Tokyo Salad” subway operator Tokyo Metro Co. is growing lettuce, assorted salad greens, and even herbs at a facility near the Nishi-kasai Station on the Tokyo Metro Tozai Line. The cultivation warehouse Metro vegetable center is located under the elevated train tracks of the line.
In the airtight space seven rows of plants are grown hydroponically. Frill lettuce, basil, along with rare finds such as Lollo Rosso (red coral lettuce) and red kale are found among the 11 varieties regularly grown, with roughly 400 plants reportedly growing on a given day.
Seeds are placed on a sponge with tweezers, and the young seedling is raised until the leaves spread out, at which time it is moved to a more spacious area. LEDs shed light on the plants for 16 hours a day and the liquid nutrients are cycled through the system 24/7. It takes roughly three to five weeks for a plant to reach maturity, and there is barely any loss.
The leaves are are soft all the way to the exterior of the plant, can be preserved for a long period of time, and because no chemical fertilizers were used to grow them and they never touched soil, the entire plant can be eaten without being washed.
So-called plant factories like this are the focus of efforts by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to expand safe provision of products like vegetables, high productivity and job creation. According to the ministry, the number of cultivators using artificial lights has tripled from 2011 to 197 locations as of February 2017.
The operation is a joint project with group company Metro Development Co., which began sales of the lettuce and other products in April 2015.