Multimedia: Downtown Tokyo 'Office Farm' Takes Green Building to New Heights

Ripe tomatoes hang from conference room ceilings, rice paddies grow waist-high in the lobby, and a living facade of flowers and orange trees covers the expanse of the building's exterior. There's no shortage of agricultural variety around the Pasona office building, located in downtown Tokyo, Japan. In total, over 200 species of fruits, vegetables, and rice live within Pasona, including lemons, broccoli, salad greens, berries, squash, eggplant, and passion fruit.

The building's exterior uses vertical farming technology to display several varieties of trees and flowers. (KONO DESIGNS)

Over 43,000 square feet of space is dedicated to the vegetation, and together with the automatic irrigation system and HEFL, fluorescent, and LED lighting, this office space is essentially a complete indoor ecosystem.

A rice paddy grows in the lobby and each harvest can yield up to 50kg of rice. (KONO DESIGNS)

Since launching its agriculture project with its basement farm over eight years ago, Pasona — a renowned temporary staffing and recruiting agency — has fully commited to the advancement of urban agriculture by providing community workshops that train younger generations of urban farmers. Pasona intially embarked on the project with the intention of creating jobs in the agricultural sector. But given its use of the latest hydroponic, lighting, and soil technologies, the company has emerged as an urban agriculture pioneer in Tokyo.

A combination of HEFL, fluorescent, and LED lighting provides the conditions necessary for growth. (KONO DESIGNS)

While visitors are free to enter the lobby and see the farm for themselves, the employees actually contribute directly to the farm-to-office-table initiative; they work with a managing team to maintain, harvest, and prepare the produce for the on-site cafeteria. The resulting meals are fresh in quality, and the direct exposure to the seed-to-fruit process raises office- and community-wide awareness of food supply demands.

Employees pitch in with harvesting fresh vegetables to be prepared and served at the cafeteria. (KONO DESIGNS)

As with all innovative projects, this indoor farm isn't free of faults. The energy used to power the lighting may not be the most efficient compared to conventional farming methods, and some may find the sterile environment unsettling and abnormal. Rather than regard its indoor farm as a perfect prototype, however, Pasona sees it as an experiment, the lessons from which will almost certainly inform new and improved urban agriculture ventures in the years to come.

Conference meetings and group discussions happen alongside growing vines and flowering fruit. (KONO DESIGNS)

About the Author

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Sophie Feng is a contributor to Asia Blog. A native New Yorker, she studies Film and Health Sciences at Rice University.