Indoor farming is best known for leafy greens and micro-herbs. But New York’s Oishii is hoping to blaze a new trail and sweeten up the segment.
“A lot of people call strawberries the holy grail of vertical farming,” Oishii founder Hiroki Koga says. “Strawberries are the hardest crop to grow in a vertical system and it’s been every vertical farmer’s dream to grow them. Conquering strawberries allows us to grow into other crops very quickly.”
The startup recently announced a $50 million funding round led by Mirai Creation Fund, part of Tokyo-based SPARX Group. Additional investors included Sony Innovation Fund — the corporate venture arm of Japanese tech giant Sony — Tokyo-based AI company PKSHA Technology, and San Francisco-based VC Social Starts.
With the initial R&D under its belt, Oishii is now turning its focus to consistency and quality of product. Its current New Jersey facility spans a few tennis courts, Koga says; but its next one will be the size of an American football field. It currently sells direct-to-consumer through its website, and through traditional retail channels like supermarkets.
But its strawberries may be out of some consumers’ grocery budgets, retailing between $15 and $50 per pack depending on the size and the number of fruits. This price point puts Oishii’s berries in the luxury food category – for now, at least.
“Our current ‘Omakase’ berry is our Roadster right now, but we already have developed multiple strawberry cultivars that we can produce much more cost-efficiently. Our Model S and Model 3 will be on the market soon,” he says, referring to the latter-day models now being sold by Elon Musk’s company.
Another U.S. vertical farming startup, Plenty, is also trying to solve the strawberry equation. It recently added Driscoll’s to its list of backers and is collaborating with the major berry producer on indoor strawberry cultivation.
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