Feb 28, 2024
Vertical farming operator Oishii raises funds

The closing of a round of $134 million in Series B funding should help vertical farming operator Oishii expand.

The funds should accelerate Oishii’s growth, according to a news release. Known as the world’s largest indoor vertical strawberry farm, the funding is designed to help the company open a solar-powered facility, expand distribution to new markets and continue to invest in advanced robotics and energy-saving innovations, according to the release.

Oishii logo

 

“While 2023 was a turbulent year for vertical farming operations, Oishii has emerged as an industry innovator with its unique business model and steady growth trajectory,” company officials said in the release. “The company delivers a highly differentiated product – from the chef-favorite Omakase Berry to the flagship Koyo Berry and its revolutionary new Rubī Tomato. With plans to unveil another type of berry later this year, Oishii stands apart for its unrivaled ability to grow sophisticated produce beyond leafy greens, thanks to the many bees who live in its indoor farms and diligently pollinate each flower.”

Oishii’s commitment to efficiency is one of the reasons behind its success. Major breakthroughs include introducing state-of-the-art harvesting robots developed in partnership with investor Yaskawa, as well as optimizing the AI models that power bee pollination, environmental controls, and farm output to grow more with less energy and water, according to the release.

“We founded Oishii to solve some of the biggest food supply issues our world faces today – but to do so deliciously,” Hiroki Koga, Oishii’s CEO and co-founder, said in the release. “The time is now to take our technology from a promise of a better tomorrow to a proven reality – making good on the movement my predecessors in Japan started a decade ago. This capital will help us pave the way for mainstream adoption of vertical farming in the U.S., and we’re grateful to welcome many new partners to the Oishii family who share our vision of a sweeter future.”

While many in the industry prioritize short crop cycles and expansion, Oishii instead emphasizes taste over timelines and profitability over proliferation, Akira Shimada, president and CEO of NTT, a member of the investors.

As the only U.S. vertical farm to sell strawberries year-round, Oishii marries nature, technology, and farming techniques perfected for decades in Japan to grow its prized fruit. Grown pesticide-free, every delectable Oishii product bears the Non-GMO Project Verified seal and is always in season.

 

 

In 2018, Oishii introduced its first strawberry, the Omakase Berry, which caught the attention of Michelin-starred chefs, tastemakers and consumers for its sweetness, aroma, and creamy texture. In 2023, the company unveiled its second strawberry, the Koyo Berry, known for its sweetness and balanced acidity. In December, Oishii introduced the jewel-like Rubī Tomato, known for its flavor, according to the release.

Led by Japan’s telecommunications leader NTT, the round attracted a diverse group of investors with deep expertise in food tech, sustainable agriculture and automation. New investors include Bloom8, McWin Capital Partners, Mizuho Bank, Mitsubishi Shokuhin Co., Ltd., the Japan Green Investment Corporation for Carbon Neutrality (JICN) – a fund established by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, and respected industrial robotics company Yaskawa Electric Corporation.

The funding comes on the heels of expansion across the Northeast. In June 2023, Oishii launched its Koyo Berry in the DC area, before bringing the fruit to Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey. Oishii products are available at Whole Foods Market, FreshDirect, and in a number of specialty grocers. Each tray retails between $10-$15, according to the release.

Oishii has raised a total of $189 million since its founding in 2016.

Oishii was founded by Koga and Brendan Somerville, who met pursuing MBA degrees at Berkeley University. Somerville co-founded an avocado company in Uganda, while Koga worked as a consultant in agriculture technology in Japan. In 2017, the two built a northern New Jersey research facility and in 2022, Oishii opened Mugen Farm in Jersey City, New Jersey, touted as the world’s largest indoor strawberry farm which spans more than 74,000 square feet.

 




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