Many hail Oishii’s “Omakase Strawberries” as the world’s sweetest —- peek inside its vertical farm that provides the optimal farming environment
HIROKI KOGA: Our berries are known to have an exceptional aroma. Most cases, we have two to three times more sweetness in our berries compared to what you're used to eating. I'm Hiroki Koga, co-founder, and CEO here at Oishii. And at Oishii, we grow Omakase berries, which are known to be the world's sweetest strawberries.
Strawberries are associated with celebration in Japan. I wanted to bring the joy of eating Japanese strawberries and share it with the people here to make these strawberries available to as many people as possible here in the US. So a few different things make our strawberries very sweet. One it's the genetics. These are very special Japanese varieties strawberries that was optimized for sweetness as opposed to yield or long-distance transportation, which is the case with most of the American berries.
The second thing is that because we're able to 100% control the growing environment of these strawberries using the vertical farming technology, so every day, our strawberries are thriving in a perfect environment. The beauty of this technology is that you can produce these fruits anywhere around the world without being impacted by the outdoor weather conditions. Instead of the sun, you would use LED lights. We use significantly less water. We don't have to use arable land. We don't rely on any pesticides.
So the way we grow these are considered very sustainable, and at the same time, consumers are able to enjoy things that weren't available locally. Once the berries are harvested in the farm, they come through what's called a pass-through window straight into the packaging room. Our members inspect every single Berry and make sure that there's no excessive bruising, the shape, or the quality is not off.
We want to make sure that every product is perfect, and in order to do that, we have the brix testing. So brix is essentially the amount of sweetness the fruit contains. Most of the strawberries that's grown in the US today they brix somewhere between 4 to 7, whereas our strawberries brix between 10 to 15. So in most cases, we have two to three times more sweetness in our berries compared to what you're used to eating.
Overall, in general, the biggest challenge is that no one in the history of agriculture has ever figured out how to grow strawberries in a completely sunless environment at this scale. Strawberries were said to be one of the hardest crops to grow in a vertical farm because you need to fly bees to pollinate the flowers, and bees were known not to operate well in a vertical farm environment. That's why people could only grow leafy greens up until this point. And so we really wanted to take on this challenge head-on and prove to the world that there's a lot more to vertical farming and that this can become the next standard of agriculture.
I'm really proud of our team. We all had conviction that people would react in a very positive way to this product. And that's what has really fueled us for the past five years. And now we're able to launch this product at $20 at Whole Foods. It's sold out pretty much every single day. It's extremely rewarding for our teams to see the level of excitement from the market.