Toshiba Makes Over Mothballed Computer Factory Into An Enormous New Factory Farm

Toshiba's former floppy disk factory in Yokosuka, Japan had been sitting idle since 1994. Rather than allow a valuable asset to deteriorate, the company boldly performed an innovative makeover to the plant, which now GROWS plants for profit.

Now known as Toshiba Clean Room Farm Yokosuka, the factory's total floor area of approximately 1,969 square meters (almost 70,000 square feet) is vertically optimized to suit the requirements of hydroponic farming.

Racks that once held freshly-made floppy disks now support vegetables like leaf lettuce, baby leaf greens and spinach as well as herbs such as basil, cilantro, dill, lemon balm, and spearmint. According to an official press release, “Toshiba targets annual sales of 300 million yen (about $3 million).”  Not bad for a former ghost factory whose time had seemingly passed along with the outdated technology it manufactured.

The switchover from computer products to fresh edible produce wasn't as onerous (and expensive) as one might assume. “Fortunately,” explains Hiroshi Ishimura, general manager of the company's new business development division, “Toshiba has a lot of technology that can be used for this (new venture).” Being that floppy disk production demanded a sterile environment, the disk factory's fluorescent lighting, air-conditioning system, remote monitoring and sterilization systems were ideal for a start-up indoor hydroponic farm.

One of the advantages to hydroponic farming is the elimination of soil as a growth medium. Without soil, a host of damaging bacterial and viral pathogens can be eliminated as well, thus boosting the shelf life of the produce. Toshiba realizes this added value when their vegetables and herbs are sold to supermarkets, convenience stores, delicatessens and restaurants.

Things have gone so well since the Toshiba Clean Room Farm Yokosuka opened, Toshiba is planning to expand the working space to grow more and different types of produce. As well, the factory's staff have learned that very minor adjustments in lighting length and intensity can vastly improve both the taste and the nutritional value of their produce, thus boosting profit margins even further. The implications are mind-boggling: from industrial remediation here on Earth to honing food production strategies for future space colonies... all from a failed floppy disk factory. (via WebEcoist, images via TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)