Work cafeteria food just got a lot more interesting. A downtown Tokyo office building is one of the first urban farms in Japan, connecting the ideas of green energy and sustainability with the day-to-day realities of office life. Office workers at Pasona, a staffing firm specializing in farming and related jobs, are encouraged to cultivate indoor and outdoor gardens and eat the fruits (and vegetables) of their labour.
Pasona's headquarters in the bustling Japanese metropolis features both interior and exterior "green" ideas. There are vegetable and fruit bushes -- beans, tomatoes, eggplant, broccoli and passion fruit -- next to desks and work stations. There's a rice paddy field on one office floor. There's a pumpkin patch by the reception area.
Outside, roses and other flowers grow from Pasona's balconies.
The multi-million dollar project included a complete renovation of the 50-year-old building. The entire project was designed by New York City-based design firm Kono Designs.
Yoshimi Kono, the president of Kono said one of the many challenges with designing the project was creating urban farming examples that were actually edible and sustainable and not just decorative items.
"Living plants and a living human environment is sometimes not the same," Kono said in an interview with the Star.
He said that while plants and vegetables need certain lighting and temperature conditions to grow and thrive the same conditions are not always the same for a human environment. (Just think about all of that humidity in a greenhouse and what it would do to your hair.)
The project is a work in progress. While it was completed in 2011, Kono often heads back to Tokyo to try out new "green" projects at Pasona, see how the building’s irrigation system is working or find out how the workers are doing with their plant "coworkers."
Urban farming is a growing trend around the world. As food shortages continue to dwindle, scientists, designers and environmentalists are all looking for innovative, urban ways to increase the supply of food.
Projects range from community gardens to gardens in unlikely places like in the case of Pasona.
In the last two years, Pasona has helped train and secure jobs for about 350 people as farmers throughout rural areas of Japan, Kono said.
"We are spending some (energy) to grow some vegetables but behind it, we have a bigger purpose," he said.
Lorianna De Giorgio is the Star's foreign web editor. Follow her on Twitter: @ldegiorgio