Vertical Farming Super Strawberries

Illustration by João Fazenda

In the early years of this platform we were developing new properties in Kerala, India and food was a focal point. More recently when we indulge in the culinary it is Costa Rica taste of place we are talking about. Occasionally vertical farming makes its way into these pages, but it has been a while:

Selling “Omakase” Strawberries, for the Price of a Full Meal

The founder of Oishii, whose haute-cuisine strawberries have sold for as much as ten dollars a pop, offers a tour of one of his V.C.-backed vertical farms, modelled on the foothills of Japan and built in New Jersey.

Consider the strawberry: red, ripe, an ephemeral pleasure as fleeting as a summer fling. What if that fling could last? “Our strawberries are always in season,” Hiroki Koga, the co-founder and C.E.O. of Oishii (pronounced oy-she, Japanese for “delicious”), a company that specializes in vertical farming, said the other day. “I am in love with them,” the chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who uses the berries in a haute lemon drop served at his vegetarian restaurant, abcV, said. “They’re completely delicious.”

Love comes at a price: originally, Oishii charged sixty dollars for a plastic case of six heart-shaped “jumbo omakase” berries, each one tucked into its own plastic cradle.

“That’s our special lineup,” Koga said. “Our first-flower berries, probably the top one or two per cent of our production.” The jumbo berries now cost twenty dollars for a tray of eight, which can be ordered through Oishii’s Web site for delivery in New York and New Jersey, or for pickup in Los Angeles; the berries are also available at a handful of Whole Foods locations around New York. They regularly sell out.

“There are customers who buy multiple trays every week,” Koga said. “That’s, like, thousands of dollars, just on strawberries.” Demand is so high that he has stopped selling to most restaurants.

Koga grew up in Japan and came to the U.S. in 2015, to get an M.B.A. at U.C. Berkeley. Among his first stops: the grocery store. “I was really excited to try the produce,” he said. “I expected everything to be good and cheap, compared with Japan.” He was disappointed. “Everything looked glossy. Everything looked good,” he said. “But then I’d take a bite, and I wouldn’t be able to taste the flavor.” He learned that most American growers are geared toward mass production and long-distance transport, rather than toward flavor.

Read the whole story here.

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