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Canon to put automation tech to work in lettuce factory venture

Office equipment maker to invest over $4m in partnership

This Vitec Holdings factory opened last year in Japan's Ishikawa Prefecture.

TOKYO -- The Canon group and a cross section of other Japanese companies are teaming up to grow leafy greens in factories.

About 10 investors will provide funding to Vitec Vegetable Factory, a farming arm of electronics trader Vitec HoldingsCanon Electronics, a unit of the office equipment maker, and Ryonetsu Kogyou, an electronics supplier, will each provide about 10% of the money, or around 500 million yen ($4.69 million).

The Development Bank of Japan will contribute about 4% of the funding.

Vitec Vegetable Factory currently runs three plants in Japan. Under a new business plan that takes effect in April, it intends to have eight factories for lettuce, kale and other leafy vegetables running by the end of the fiscal year through March 2021.

Canon Electronics will provide automated systems for seeding, harvesting and shipping to Vitec's vegetable unit. This will be Canon's first time sharing its automation technology with an outside party. The company hopes to soak up more farming expertise that it can later use on its own.

One of the locations, in the central prefecture of Ishikawa, is expected to be capable of producing 4,400 tons of leafy vegetables a year, or 120,000 pieces a day. This would make it Japan's largest facility of its kind.

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