These Strawberries Cost $2 Per Berry. Are They Worth It?

Unless you’re shopping at a farmers' market in the summer, many strawberries end up moldy, underripe, or scarily large. The fruit is specifically bred to withstand long-distance travel from farms to your local produce aisle. This means you can buy strawberries year round, but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they’ll taste good.

But in a former Budweiser warehouse in New Jersey, Oishii is flipping the script. Founded by Hiroki Koga, the brand is the first vertical farm to grow strawberries. And these aren’t your average berries, either. Oishii specifically grows cultivars native to the Japanese alps that have a distinctly sweet and floral flavor. These delicate varietals can’t flourish on American soil, so Koga and his team of engineers have replicated the Japanese climate indoors.

It’s an impressive technological feat that means you can have peak-season berries any time of the year. But that also means that they come at a premium price. When Oishii berries first launched, a box of six to eight strawberries cost nearly $50. Their operation has since scaled and lowered the price by nearly 75%, but a single strawberry can still run you about $2. I had the chance to stop by Oishii’s headquarters in Jersey City, New Jersey, and explore what exactly makes their berries so special.

How Are Oishii Berries Grown?

oishii strawberries
Hearst Owned

The process of growing Oishii berries starts by propagating strawberry seedlings for about a month. Once they’re mature enough, the plants are transferred to one of their vertical farms, where everything from the temperature to the water filtration to the light is maintained with technological precision.

Unlike other vertical farms in the United States that focus on lettuce and micro greens, strawberry plants require pollination to grow fruit. Oishii’s farms house a fleet of bees that work to pollinate the flowers. On their own, bees successfully pollinate only a fraction of strawberry flowers.

Oishii collects visual data of each plant on the farm to maximize efficiency and output. With the help of AI technology, this data determines how many bees are needed and where they should go at any given time. This process allows the strawberry plants to produce fruit continuously for up to two years—so we can enjoy Oishii strawberries without being limited to seasons.

How Do Oishii Berries Taste?

a hand holding a strawberry
Hearst Owned

Oishii berries are unlike any other strawberries in America, and it’s the seeds they’re using that make them particularly special. The brand first became famous for their Omakase berry, which has a higher sugar concentration than your average strawberry. It has a prominent floral aroma that fills the entire room (even through the packaging).

The Koyo berry is a newer addition to Oishii’s lineup. It has a similar sugar content to the Omakase berry but it’s balanced with more brightness and acidity. This gives it a similar flavor profile to the strawberries you’re used to eating. It has a vibrant red hue from the exterior to the center and a slightly firmer texture than the Omakase.

The distinct flavor of Oishii berries can also be attributed to its freshness. By the time you eat a standard supermarket strawberry, it has already spent several days being processed and transported over long distances.

Oishii’s distribution is limited to eight states (plus Washington D.C.), most of which are along the East Coast. The time spend traveling from Oishii’s headquarters in New Jersey is much shorter than average—sometimes within 24 hours of harvest.

It’s one of the most luxurious berries you can eat, and we can confirm that Oishii is worth every penny.

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