High-rise indoor farms for vegetables are spreading across the world. In a suburb of Kyoto, in Japan, surrounded by technology companies and start-ups, Spread is preparing to open the world's largest automated leaf-vegetable factory. It's the company's second vertical farm and could mark a turning point for vertical farming, bringing the cost low enough to compete with traditional farms on a large scale. For decades, vertical farms that grow produce indoors without soil in stacked racks have been touted as a solution to rising food demand in the world's expanding cities. The problem has always been reproducing the effect of natural rain, soil and sunshine at a cost that makes the crop competitive with traditional agriculture. Spread is among a handful of commercial companies that claim to have cracked the problem with a mix of robotics, technology and scale. Its new facility in Keihanna Science City, known as Japan's Silicon Valley, will grow 30,000 heads of lettuce a day on racks u...

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