CULVER CITY, Calif. — Vertical farming could offer a sustainable option for producing food. The indoor technology expands up instead of out, creating conditions conducive for growing fresh produce all year long, no matter the season. With the growing climate crisis, this current niche technique could become mainstream.
The Oishii strawberry is bright red, sweet, and has large indented seeds, making it stand out among other berries. This strawberry stems from Japan but is now planting its roots in Los Angeles.
General manager of the Oishii LA facility, Brian Moeljadi, says their indoor vertical farming technology is sustainable and truly farm to table, quintessentially Los Angeles.
"LA is a city that really loves incredible food. They love fruits and vegetables that are in season and taste delicious. It was an easy transition to come here," Moeljadi said.
It was an easy transition from Japan to New York and now the City of Angels. Hiroki Koga, Oishii founder, was upset to learn how America valued quantity over quality, so he created the first of its kind indoor vertical strawberry farm in the U.S.
The farm is pretty protected to keep it clean and sanitized. Spectrum News 1 was not even able to film inside the Los Angeles location. Due to this indoor technology, there are no pesticides used and the berries are non-GMO
"We've taken all these ancient techniques on how to grow the berries, been able to bring them to market and scale it. Inside the farm, we were able to create those exact same conditions that they are used to growing in the Japanese Alps. The perfect day we like to say. Helping to control temperature, humidit, and all the growing conditions that contribute to making the berry sweet and delicious," Moeljadi said.
Vertical farming isn't reserved only for Oishii. It has become a growing trend where the USDA even has new funding and research opportunities. They want to see if food security could be expanded to a larger scale due to climate change concerns and the lack of proper land resources to grow local produce.
Moeljadi says he can see this being used by other companies for even more food, as the need may arise to bring more farming indoors. Oishii is even working on growing melons and tomatoes.
"With the square footage of growing, you are traditionally expanding out, but with this, you are expanding up. So, the strain on resources in terms of water, land use and waste become a lot more compelling from a sustainability standpoint," Moeljadi said.
The USDA believes vertical farming could take over 50% of leafy green markets in the U.S. over the next 10 years. While mainstream accessibility isn't here just yet, Oishii is doing its part to help the movement, but this specialized treat is more expensive. While it's not cheap now, if this technology expands for the masses, it could be for everyone to enjoy all year long. Seasons don't matter in vertical farming.
"Right now, round the end of October you see the end of traditional strawberry season, but we can grow it year-round," Moeljadi said.
A way to feed our planet fresh produce all year could be coming sooner than we think. The Oishii strawberries are considered to be a high-end treat, like when you gift a special chocolate-covered strawberry. You can pick them up at the restaurant Destroyer in Culver City and will soon be available for delivery.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect that delivery is not yet available. (Nov. 4, 2021)