Taiwan is transforming unused metro stations into underground vertical farms

Scientists work on Taiwan's new sustainable, organic, metro farm
Scientists work on Taiwan's new sustainable, organic, metro farm   -   Copyright  AFP   -  
By Jeremy Robson  with AFP

Taiwan is using vacant metro spaces to grow highly in demand, sustainable, clean and organic food.

Advanced and efficient vertical farming methods are being harnessed to help feed commuters with fresh produce.

Located at capital city Taipei’s Nanjing-Fushing Station, the 40 square-metre ‘Metro Fresh’ hydroponic farm grows lettuce under LED lighting in a sterile environment to eliminate the use of pesticides and herbicides.

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

They have used high tech equipment to regulate conditions such as light, temperature and nutrients which are most beneficial to the growth of the plants.

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

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

Why is vertical farming necessary?

Vertical indoor farms, also known as "smart farms", have become increasingly popular in Taiwan as the island's young population are reluctant to enter the agricultural workforce.

Technology sector jobs are more in demand for younger people, as they are better paid and offer more opportunity for growth. This move to a different kind of work has benefited the tech sector in terms of research and technological experimentation.

Are smart farms better than normal farms?

Smart farms are less labor intensive and use technology to increase yields and mitigate weather fluctuations.

"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," says Winnie Chan, deputy manager at Unimicron Plant Technology.

Taiwan has a population of 23.57 million people and a surface area of only 36,197 km². This means that being able to use space as efficiently as possible is crucial for the nation's growth and self-sufficiency.

These technologies could also prove to be useful in other densely populated countries such as Singapore, Monaco, and Malta.

Watch the video above of Taiwan's metro station farm.

Video editor • Jeremy Robson