Taiwan transforms underground metro station into an organic vertical farm

The 40-square-meter hydroponic farm cultivates lettuce under LED lighting without using pesticides.
Baba Tamim
Metro Fresh
Metro Fresh hydroponic farm at Nanjing Fuxing Metro station in Taipei, Taiwan.

Metro Taipei 

In an effort to provide passengers with amenities beyond transportation, Taiwan has chosen an unusual location for vertical farming, an underground metro station.

Nanjing Fuxing station in Taipei cultivates vegetables in a technologically advanced setting that assures precisely controlled humidity, temperatures, and other elements promoted as a method of cultivating unpolluted and healthy plants, Taiwan News reported on Wednesday.

"One thing that most people are worried about is the unavoidable use of pesticides in traditional land-based farming," said Julia Yang, an executive of Unimicron Technology, the company behind the underground metro farm.

The 40-square-meter "Metro Fresh" hydroponic farm cultivates lettuce under LED lighting without pesticides or herbicides. It uses high-tech equipment to control factors like light, temperature, and nutrients that are most conducive to the growth of plants.

Taiwan transforms underground metro station into an organic vertical farm
Metro Fresh hydroponic farm at Nanjing Fuxing Metro station in Taipei, Taiwan.

"We use hydroponic farming and thus have no insect egg problem," said Yang.

"Everyone's biggest fear when having a salad is insect eggs."

A hydroponic farm uses fertilizer mineral solutions dissolved in water to grow plants without the use of soil.

The farming zone also serves educational reasons by enabling primary school kids to gain knowledge about environmental technologies and raise awareness, according to the Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation.

The station also features an augmented reality (AR) exhibit that allows visitors to experience sea life.

Taiwan transforms underground metro station into an organic vertical farm
Augmented reality exhibit at the metro station.

Rapid growth of vertical farming in Taiwan

Vertical farms, commonly referred to as "smart farms," have grown in popularity in Taiwan as the island's youth are hesitant to engage in agriculture, according to Euronews.

This change has benefitted the nation's IT industry in terms of research and technical experimentation. Since they pay more and offer greater opportunities for promotion, jobs in the technology sector are more in demand among young people.

Smart farms use technology to boost yields and reduce weather variations while using minimal labor.

"Right now our production yield is about 180 bags of lettuce, each bag is 200 grams. We can produce 180 bags of lettuce each week," said Winnie Chan, deputy manager at Unimicron Plant Technology.

Taiwan has only 36,197 km2 of land area and a population of 23,57 million. Therefore, it is essential for the country's development and self-sufficiency to be able to utilize space as effectively as feasible.

Taiwan transforms underground metro station into an organic vertical farm
Metro Fresh hydroponic farm at Nanjing Fuxing Metro station in Taipei, Taiwan.

Food security and vertical farming

Vertical farming is a form of contemporary farming that makes the most of indoor farming practices by utilizing agricultural technology under environmental control. The purpose is to raise crop yields in a constrained or tiny area.

Tomatoes, bell peppers, lettuce, and broccoli are excellent examples of vertically grown vegetables.

However, it is not suitable for all types of plants. Due to growth conditions and space constraints, only a few food crops can be grown vertically.

But, by effectively using land and water, vertical farming can assist crops in overcoming this impending difficulty.

40 percent of the world's land has already deteriorated, as per U.N. assessment.

By 2050, the world's population is predicted to reach nine billion. Although nine percent of people already experience food insecurity, vertical farming is touted as one of the many solutions to feed the growing population.

According to a report by Market Research Future, the vertical farming market is expected to reach USD 25.1 billion by 2030.

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