In face of depleting water reserves, unsustainable farming practices and the growing need to reduce our food miles – urban farming is emerging as a powerful alternative -thanks to reduced prices of indoor farming tech. Today there are well over 200 vertical farms operating around the world.
With tomato vines suspended above conference tables, lemon and passion fruit trees as partitions for meeting spaces, salad leaves grown inside seminar rooms and a rice paddy in the main lobby – Pasona Group in downtown Tokyo has an active Urban Farm growing in their HQ.
Pasona HQ is a nine story high, 215,000 square foot corporate office building. It is home to the largest and most direct farm-to-table of its kind ever realized inside an office building.
Spanning over 20% of their office area, the green space in the structure totals over 43,000 square feet, with crops and office workers sharing a common space. Using both hydroponic and soil based farming, over 200 species including fruits, vegetables and rice farmed, harvested, prepared and served at the cafeterias within the building.
Ducts, pipes and vertical shafts were rerouted to the perimeter of the building to allow for maximum height ceilings and a climate control system is used to monitor humidity, temperature and air flow in the building to ensure it is safe for the employees and suitable for the farm.
These crops are equipped with metal halide, HEFL, fluorescent and LED lamps and an automatic irrigation system. Tech to manage an intelligent climate control system to monitor humidity, temperature and breeze to balance human comfort during office hours and optimize crop growth after hours.
Seasonal flowers and orange trees are planted on the balconies between the deep double skinned facade. Partially relying on natural exterior climate, these plants create a living green wall and a dynamic identity to the public.
The lighting has been designed with hidden lights on the bottom vertical edge of the beams creating a large lit cove in the space between the beams. This method used throughout the workspace achieves 30% energy saving as compared to the conventional ceiling mounted lighting method.
As the crops harvested in Pasona HQ are served within the building cafeterias, it highlights ‘zero food mileage’ concept of a more sustainable food distribution system that reduces energy and transportation cost.
Though the farm is a loss to the net rentable area for a commercial office, Pasona believes in the benefits of urban farm and green space to engage the public and to provide better workspace for their employees.
Beyond aesthetic and visual improvement, it exposes city workers to growing crops and interaction with farmland on a daily basis and provides improvement in mental health, productivity and relaxation in the workplace.
Studies show that most people in urbanized societies spend over 80% of their time indoors. Plants are also known to improve the air quality we breathe and a sampling on the air at Pasona HQ has shown reduction of carbon dioxide where plants are abundant. An improvement on the air quality can increase productivity at work by 12%, improves common symptoms of discomfort and ailments at work by 23%, reduce absenteeism and staff turnover cost.
Employees are asked to participate in the maintenance and harvesting of crops with the help of agricultural specialists. Such activity encourages social interaction and improves teamwork. It also provides them with a sense of responsibility and accomplishment in growing and maintaining the crops that are ultimately prepared and served at the building’s cafeterias.
Also opportunities for job placement into farming are very limited because of the steady decline of farming within the country. Pasona focuses on educating and cultivating next generation of farmers by offering public seminars, lectures and internship programs. The programs empower students with case studies, management skills and financial advice to promote both traditional and urban farming as lucrative professions and business opportunities.
In two years, the program recruited 150 and 200 students respectively, aiming to reverse the declining trend in the number of farmers and to ensure sustainable future food production.
Currently, Japan produces less than 1/3 of their grain locally and imports over 50 million tons of food annually, which on average is transported over 9,000 miles, the highest in the world. Japan’s reliance on imported food is due to its limited arable land. Merely 12% of its land is suitable for cultivation.
Farmland in Pasona HQ is highly efficient urban arable land, stacked as a vertical farm with modern farming technology to maximize crop yields.
This Urban Farm is a unique workplace environment that promotes higher work efficiency, social interaction and engages the wider community of Tokyo by showcasing the benefits and technology of urban agriculture.
The project believes in the long term benefits and sustainability in recruiting new urban farmers to practice alternative food distribution. Thereby creating more urban farmland and reducing food mileage in Japan.