Scientists at an indoor produce farm in Singapore are using cutting edge technology to reduce growing times and costs. The Panasonic lab-farm is one of the projects in the works to increase the capability of the small island state, which currently imports more than 95 percent of their produce, to grow their own vegetables. Sharon Reich reports.
STORY: It's the farm of the future. Set up inside a laboratory, this indoor space has been transformed into an agricultural center with ideal conditions - controlled temperature, lighting, humidity and even CO2. Panasonic's vegetable farm in Singapore is intended to help provide a stable food supply on the island as population projections are expected to increase globally. Alfred Tham manages the farm, which produces 10 vegetables, including mini radishes and baby spinach. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PANASONIC FACTORY SOLUTIONS AGRICULTURAL BUSINESS UNIT MANAGER, ALFRED THAM, SAYING: "Our LEDs (lights) are specially designed to simulate two out of seven sunlight rays that is necessary for photosynthesis. We control the settings and duration of the lights to achieve optimum cultivations for our crops." In addition to lighting, lab techs measure and control soil moisture and PH levels and use filtered water to achieve optimum growth and quality. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PANASONIC FACTORY SOLUTIONS AGRICULTURAL BUSINESS UNIT MANAGER, ALFRED THAM, SAYING: "With all these techniques and controls we are able to shorten our lead-time by half compared to traditional farming." By focusing on vegetables that are traditionally imported, the Panasonic farm is able to cut costs to the consumer. Now for the taste test. Food blogger Tricia Tan and her companion tried the veggies in a salad at a local restaurant. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FOOD BLOGGER, TRICIA TAN, SAYING: "I'm not a veggie lover, but when I tasted these veggies it's very fresh, very crunchy and it tastes a little bit sweet, you know, really fresh." (SOUNDBITE) (English) COUSIN OF FOOD BLOGGER, JULIA TAN, SAYING: "I really do taste like a very fresh kind of, very juicy taste." Back at the farm, growers say the harvest is still quite small, but they hope to account for 5 percent of the island's leafy greens by 2016.