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JD.com opens high-tech indoor farm in Beijing

Chinese e-commerce group in strategic tie-up with Mitsubishi Chemical

Produce is grown on the pesticide-free farm with solar light. Temperature and humidity are controlled and water is purified with treatment equipment. (Photo by Shunsuke Tabeta)

BEIJING -- China's No. 2 e-commerce operator JD.com has opened a hydroponic vegetable factory in Beijing, seeking to win over the growing ranks of middle-income families worried about food safety.

JD.com said Thursday that the factory, built by Mitsubishi Chemical, is part of a strategic partnership with the Japanese company.

The $3.56 million factory, situated in Beijing's Tongzhou district, is one of the country's largest at some 11,000 sq. meters and can produce vegetables in a clean and controlled environment. With annual capacity of about 300 tons, it will grow lettuce and about five other leafy vegetables. JD.com will begin online sales soon.

After beginning the growing process with artificial light, produce is grown on the pesticide-free farm with solar light. Temperature and humidity are controlled and water is purified with treatment equipment. Crops will be ready to ship in five weeks, the company said.

JD.com will lean on its e-commerce and logistics expertise to bring safe and fresh foods to consumer tables, said Xiaosong Wang, the head of the company's food businesses.

JD.com will assess the needs of safety-focused consumers and share the data with the Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings unit so that the Japanese partner can update the factory with the latest technology. The Chinese company will also encourage its partner farm owners to adopt the same technology, seeking to build a domestic network of 10 such factories.

Mitsubishi Chemical has so far delivered 18 farming facilities in China. The company aims to set up 10 a year in the country, said Hitoshi Sasaki, managing executive officer. It seeks to double Chinese sales by 2020.

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