From Nuclear Catastrophe to Greenhouse Agriculture

Just over two years ago, Japan experienced one the worst natural disasters in living memory. The earthquake and the ensuing tsunami destroyed much of Japan’s east coast, and most famously caused reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant to leak radiation into the land and the sea.

Decontamination and reconstruction work is still taking place in the area, with soil still showing high levels of radiation, local populations are being aided by the construction of dome shaped, solar powered greenhouses, designed to shut out nuclear residue and help people grow their own produce.

Dubbed “The Vegetable Factory”, these domes are pumped with air and create a safe environment in which to cultivate. Interestingly, this greenhouse scheme is being spearheaded by a former executive at Fukushima, The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).

Officially named Minamisoma Solar Agri Park, the nylon domes stand next to the solar panels that power them. They boast a revolutionary round design with crops growing in a circular pattern radiating from the centre. The farmers are based in the centre of the circle of plants in the “hub”. The plants rotate around this central hub, creating an efficient method of tending to the crop. The domes are fully hydroponic, with computer controlled climate control.

Former TEPCO employee Eiju Hangai, who left his role just months before the disaster, explains why he is part of the project;

“I can’t help feeling a responsibility for the nuclear disaster. It destroyed entire communities. After the disaster I vowed to find a way to help a recovery process that could take 20 or 30 years.”

Robin Parker, of bespoke greenhouse manufacturer Gabriel Ash said;

“After the tragic events caused by the tsunami, it is fascinating to see the versatility of greenhouse technology, and how it is being adapted to suit all kinds of environments and situations.”

The solar park also houses a training complex dedicated to providing children with the experience needed          to carry this project on into the future. The park is already producing significant amount of yield, and has recently signed a deal to provide lettuce to a major Japanese supermarket. Excess power generated is being sold back to the Japanese power grid.

Creating something positive out of a nuclear nightmare is testament to the local population survival instinct. Doing it so quickly is awe inspiring

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