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U.S. startup launches Japanese strawberry factory

NEW YORK >> Oishii Farm, a U.S. startup run by a Japanese entrepreneur, announced in early June that it began operating the world’s largest indoor vertical strawberry farm in Phillipsburg, N.J.

The vertical farm grows Japanese varieties of strawberries that are sold mainly on the East Coast. It occupies more than 237,500 square feet of space. Artificial intelligence controls the temperature, humidity, amount of light and other elements to replicate the environment in Japan. Robots harvest the fruit when it is perfectly ripe.

The farm has a completely sealed environment so no harmful insects or germs can enter, and it can produce strawberries throughout the year without pesticides. The company recycles most of the water needed for growing the fruit and uses electricity from renewable power sources.

Oishii was founded in 2016 and started production in 2017. In February, the company announced that it received about $125.3 million in investment from Japan’s NTT Corp., Mizuho Bank and other investors, and put most of the funds into construction of the new farming space.

A pack of about 10 strawberries sells for $10 to $12, more than three times the average price of strawberries in the U.S. Yet Oishii’s strawberries are popular for their sweetness and fragrance, and the company has decided to expand production.

“I’d like to share the appeal of high-quality Japanese fruit with the world,” said Hiroki Koga, 37, the company’s chief executive officer.

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