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May 23, 2014

Fujitsu to make £1m this year selling its ‘sweet’ Fukushima lettuce

The produce, grown in a semiconductor factory, has gone on sale to selected hospitals and stores.

By Duncan Macrae

Fujitsu has revealed it expects to earn almost £1m this year by selling the lettuce it grows in its Fukushima semiconductor factory.

The Japanese IT giant ended semiconductor production at its Aizu-Wakamatsu plant in 2009, and decided to utilise the available clean room to begin lettuce cultivation.

The company has now begun selling the produce to selected hospitals and stores, including: Takeda General Hospital (a hospital in Aizu-Wakamatsu), Kutsurogijuku (an inn based in Aizu-Wakamatsu), Coop-Aizu (a supermarket in Aizu-Wakamatsu), and Kyusyuya (Musashi-Nakahara store in Kanagawa prefecture).

Fujitsu spokesman Rishad Marquardt was unable to disclose the company’s sales figures but said it hopes to earn ¥150m (£877,000) in 2014. "For fiscal 2016 we aim to achieve sales of ¥400m (£2.34m)," he added.

The lettuce costs about twice as much as your standard supermarket lettuce at roughly ¥500 (£2.90) per 90g bag. But the sales targets are perfectly reasonable, as far as Marquardt is concerned, with the lettuce already garnering positive reviews from consumers.

He said: "The sweetness of the lettuce, along with it being low in potassium, have been points of positive feedback received from our customers.

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The low potassium – 100mcg or less per 100g, and well below the typical amount of 490mcg – is one reason why hospitals have been showing such interest.

Patients with chronic kidney disease, for example, need to limit their intake of potassium due to weakened kidney function, but there are few options when it comes to raw vegetables.

"The high-quality of the lettuce that comes with its cultivation being carried out in a semiconductor clean room has also been cited as a major attraction for our customers."

However, Fujitsu’s main goal with this agriculture initiative is not to bring in rakes of cash. Instead, its aim is to promote the use of ICT in the agriculture sector.

Fujitsu president Masami Yamamoto said: "We believe there is much room for innovation in the agriculture industry. So before we begin expanding these solutions we felt that we should challenge ourselves and see how ICT could be utilised within the agriculture industry. Once we have justified it or proven this we can expand very quickly these solutions."

Marquardt added: "The progression of ICT technologies has led to an expansion into industries in which ICT can be applied. Among these industries, utilisation of ICT in agriculture is something that Fujitsu is aiming to achieve.

"Right now, we want to focus on making this lettuce available across the whole of Japan through strengthening our sales activities."

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