Cultivate Fruits and Vegetables Even in Harsh Environments with Panasonic’s IT Greenhouse

A computer-controlled greenhouse that grows produce even in harsh climates

As part of a project funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Panasonic is developing advanced farming solutions to make year-round cultivation of fruits and vegetables possible even in harsh climates. The company’s latest project is called the IT Greenhouse. To demonstrate its viability, the project is cultivating tomatoes and strawberries at its IT Greenhouse test facility on the island of Ishigaki, Okinawa. Ishigaki has a subtropical climate, averages 2,000 millimeters (78.7 inches) of precipitation per year, and has frequent squalls and typhoons. 

Photo: Aerial shot of the IT Greenhouse test facility on the island of Ishigaki, Okinawa.

Computer systems within the IT Greenhouse control the temperature and humidity to maintain a consistent climate around the clock. They also make it possible to quantify this data for analysis to determine how to create the optimal growing environment.

Panasonic brings a host of technologies to this project, including ones the company has devised while producing vegetable cultivation systems and agricultural facilities. Several solutions, such as sensing, data transmission, and measurement technologies have resulted from collaborations with other companies.

The IT Greenhouse also incorporates Panasonic’s infrared-absorbing curtains. This technology, acquired through the development of plasma televisions, is used to effectively control the temperature inside the greenhouse. The curtains block infrared rays, helping to prevent greenhouse temperatures from rising, and also shield the tomatoes and strawberries from direct sunlight. The sprinkler system—an air-cooling mist solution developed for Panasonic’s Green Air Conditioner—sprays an extremely fine mist that helps stabilize the internal temperature and humidity at optimal levels. 

Photo: Infrared-absorbing curtains of the IT Greenhouse
Photo: Mist-type temperature and humidity stabilizer of the IT Greenhouse

The climate control system, known as Smart Saien’s (vegetable garden) Cloud, automatically—and even remotely—controls the light, temperature, humidity and mist inside the IT Greenhouse. This cloud-based management system monitors and maintains records of sensing data and periodically updates the climate control program for better environmental management.

Photo: Operation screen of Smart Saien’s (vegetable garden) Cloud being used on the IT Greenhouse

Passing on essential agricultural know-how

Panasonic has also leveraged its Cultivation Navi cloud-based agricultural management system for this project. The company quantifies and visualizes farming know-how—focusing on cultivation operations management, including good agricultural protocols—and makes this data available as a software program. Panasonic hopes this solution serves to pass agricultural know-how on to developing countries, and to future generations. 

Photo: Operation screen of Cultivation Navi cloud-based agricultural management system being used on the IT Greenhouse

Panasonic has extensive experience as a homebuilder and as a fabricator of construction materials, and made full use of this expertise when constructing the greenhouse. The strong, high-quality materials used are capable of withstanding wind speeds of up to 50 meters per second (111.8 miles per hour).

The IT Greenhouse is part of a larger Panasonic strategy to devise agricultural solutions that help achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Image: Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 2: Zero Hunger, Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being, Goal 4: Quality Education, Goal 5: Gender Equality, Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation, Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy, Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities, Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, Goal 13: Climate Action, Goal 14: Life below Water, Goal 15: Life on Land, Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions, Goal 17: Partnerships for The Goals. These development goals will continue to be in agreement worldwide as we proceed toward 2030.

Panasonic intends to leverage the lessons learned through the IT Greenhouse project in its agricultural solutions business. The long-term goal is to be able to grow fruits and vegetables year-round, in any part of the world, regardless of the local climate.

 

* This project is supported by grants from the Project of the NARO Bio-oriented Technology Research Advancement Institution (R&D matching funds on the "Field for Knowledge Integration and innovation").

Image: A Better Life, A Better World

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