Kyoto, Japan-based controlled environment agriculture (CEA) company Spread said this week it has developed technology that will let it mass-produce strawberries in a vertical farm setting.
Spread is “old guard” when it comes to indoor farming, having completed its first large-scale vertical farm in 2007. Since 2018, the company has also operated its Techno Farm, which uses robotics to automate much of the grow process for plants. Up to now, Spread has grown leafy greens inside these environments. And like a few others in the vertical farming space, the company is now applying its technology and learnings from that process to growing strawberries.
Strawberries still top the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list, which means they contain the highest levels pesticides of any fruit. They are also extremely perishable and prone to damage during the shipping distribution process. That makes farms like the ones Spread operates suitable grow environments, since vertical farms are inherently pest-free already and typically situated closer to consumers. Spread’s Techno Farm, for example, is located in Kansai Science City, which sits at the intersection of the Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara prefectures in western Japan.
Strawberries are in high-demand in Japan as in other parts of the world, and Spread joins companies like Plenty, Oishii, and AppHarvest have already said they are planning to grow the fruit in a CEA environment. Oishii also grows the über-premium Omakase berry — normally only available in a specific region of Japan for a short time — inside its facility.
Spread said this week it is considering distribution of its strawberries to Europe and North America as well as Asia. The company is also working on grains, mushrooms, and other fruits as potential future crops on its farms.