Vertical farming company Oishii has raised $50 million in Series A funding, according to a press release sent to The Spoon today. The round was led by SPARX Group’s Mirai Creation Fund II, with participation from Sony Innovation Fund, PKSHA Technology, Social Starts, and several angel investors. It brings Oishii’s total funding to date to $55 million.
With the new funds, Oishii will expand its flagship vertical farm, which is located just outside of New York City. Unlike the majority of companies currently in the vertical farming space, Oishii does does not grow the standard leafy greens and herbs. Instead, the company grows strawberries — specifically, the Omakase variety.
The Omakase Berry typically only grows for a short part of the year in a very specific region of Japan. Oishii founder and CEO Hiroki Koga decided, when building out his vertical farm, to attempt to replicate the elements of a perfect day in Japan (e.g., humidity levels, light) inside a controlled-environment farm in the U.S. The realist is an Omakase Berry that can grow 365 days per year.
The Oishii grow system combines the automation technologies found on many vertical farms today with traditional strawberry cultivation methods developed in Japan specifically for the Omakase berry.
Oishii first introduced its berries in 2018; they are currently available for pickup and delivery in New York City. As produce goes, these products aren’t cheap. A pack of eight strawberries goes for $50, not including delivery fees or tip. Berries are also available at select retailers around New York City, most of them high-end speciality food shops.
Given its price point and limited availability, Oishii’s Omakase Berry is probably not destined to reach huge numbers of consumers — the goal of many other controlled ag farming operations. Instead, the mission seems to be about providing U.S.-based consumers with the experience of tasting something they would ordinarily only be able to get in one tiny region at one time of year.
Oishii said that this week’s funding will go also go towards developing other varieties of strawberries as well as growing other types of produce, such as tomatoes.