Fluorescent light to help in farming

HIKARI, Dec 8: When Japan's worst typhoon season in recent times ripped up crops and sent vegetable prices soaring this summer, Yugo Nomura's lettuce rolled safely along a conveyor belt. Instead of relying on the whims of nature, his green produce grows under red lights more commonly used in cell phones. In what is considered a world-first technology, beds of leaf lettuce are ripening safely indoors at a factory in Hikari, 50kms east of Tokyo, under red light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that help illuminate mobile phones. The invention is billed as a way to develop purely organic vegetables with less labor and a sure supply even in the worst weather. The process, developed and licensed by Cosmo Plant Co. Ltd. which set up its first factory in 1999, expands on indoor farming methods that use fluorescent lights. Red LEDs require less power, cutting by 60 percent the electricity bill from fluorescent lights, said Cosmo Plant president Hisakazu Uchiyama. "The annual electricity bill fell by about 60 million yen (577,000 dollars)," Uchiyama said. While start-up and electricity costs mean the farming method is still more expensive than the age-old reliance on the sun, the developers said the controlled environment allowed them to avoid chemicals and bad weather. Expressions of interest in the technology have come from land-short places such as Singapore. -AFP