The prices of perishable farm produce such as fruit and vegetables fluctuate depending on their seasonal supply. It is therefore important to ensure a stable supply of perishables to meet consumers’ needs while maintaining producers’ incomes. Greenhouse farming allows crop cultivation regardless of weather conditions and season, thus extending growing and harvesting periods. Plant factories are modern greenhouses equipped with smart technologies such as sensors and the Internet of Things. Based on monitoring of the environment and crop growth, year-round harvesting in plant factories is possible through advanced environmental control.

There are two basic types of plant factories: those using solar light for tomatoes, peppers, etc.; and those using artificial light for lettuce, other leafy greens, etc. In these plant factories, the crop growth environment such as temperature, air and soil moisture, soil nutrition, and CO2 levels are monitored and precisely controlled at optimum levels. Data on the environment are automatically stored and analyzed to increase quality and yields. The ideal growth environment is then maintained artificially.

In the Netherlands, the tomato yield per 0.1 ha was drastically increased from 10 tons in the early 1970s to 50 tons in the mid-1990s using plant factories. In addition, 12 labor hours were required to yield 1 ton of tomatoes in 2016 in the Netherlands thanks to plant factories, while in Japan 114 hours were required for the same yield. Therefore, plant factories increase labor productivity, enabling farmers to make profits from small land areas. According to MarketsandMarkets (2021), the global plant factory market was estimated at USD121.8 billion in 2021 and projected to reach USD172.5 billion by 2026.

Plant factory farmers must have entrepreneurial skills. Compared with natural cultivation, plant factories are costly. Sound financial planning taking into account costs and benefits is crucial for success. The production of high-quality produce must therefore be accompanied by the necessary marketing skills. In addition, plant factories can be used for multiple objectives. For example, some small plant factories are used in restaurants and assisted-living facilities.

This course will illustrate practical knowledge and technologies necessary for plant factory management. It is expected to promote smart transformation in the agriculture sector, which is one of the key result areas in the APO Vision 2025. In addition, the promotion of plant factories will contribute to raising the labor productivity of farmers and stabilizing food supplies regardless of climatic conditions, thereby benefiting consumers as well as producers in member countries.

The APO developed this course with the support of Dennis Steentjes, Consultant, Delphy Japan Co., Ltd.

Course Objectives

The main objectives of this course are:

  • Explain the concepts and mechanisms of plant factories.
  • Equip participants with knowledge of key technical components in operating plant factories.
  • Learn about entrepreneurial skills to maximize plant factory management such as data analysis, marketing, and cost control.

Course Modules

This e-learning course will cover the following modules:
Module 1: Overview of plant factories
Module 2: Plant physiology: Photosynthesis, respiration, transpiration, and stomata
Module 3: Sensors and other equipment
Module 4: Data analysis
Module 5: Cost-control measures, value-added production, and marketing of produce

Important Notes:

  1. Participants who register to take this course and pass the final examination with a score of 70% or higher will be eligible to receive the APO certificate. Please note that the final examination can be taken only once. Therefore, the most appropriate time to take the examination should be chosen carefully. The self-assessment quizzes are for personal evaluation only and are not related to the final examination results.
  2. Participants who perform well in this course and receive the APO certificate will be given preference, on a merit basis, for selection to attend follow-up face-to-face multicountry APO projects on similar topics, when nominated by their NPOs and if slots are available.
  3. Notes 1 and 2 are applicable only to participants from APO member countries. Participants from nonmember countries are welcome to take the course for self-improvement, although they will not have an opportunity to attend the follow-up face-to-face multicountry APO projects.
  4. Each module is in a prerecorded video format in which the expert delivers presentations by explaining each slide. Participants can access the video by clicking on the link provided under the title of each module.

Course Duration in Hours: 21 hours
Skill Level: Beginner
Upcoming Course: No
New Course: Yes