May 2021 - 1

Tree fruit group targets
Michigan growers'
How California
is protecting its
Blueberry growers
dedicated to organic
practices for more than
40 years
May 2021 | Volume 60 |
Issue 5
Startup claims first vertically grown,
commercially sold strawberries
Oishii grows its Omakase berry variety and has honed its vertical growing techniques at a research facility and farm system in northern New Jersey. Photos: Oishii
By Stephen Kloosterman
Associate Editor
An interesting strawberry grown
vertically is making a quiet debut at
New York City restaurants, direct-toconsumer
online sales and even upscale
retailer Eli's Market.
The berries are the product of
research into strawberry varieties and
indoor vertical hydroponic growing
systems by Oishii, a north New Jersey
startup. The variety of strawberry,
Omakase, is a rare type from Japan, and
Oishii claims to be the first to grow it in
the U.S.
Getting vertical
While vertical growing systems for
greens and herbs are becoming more
commonplace, the use of the systems
for strawberries is cutting-edge, with
category giant Driscoll's last year
announcing a partnership with San
Francisco, California, vertical grower,
Plenty, for research and development.
Oishii was founded in 2016 by Brendan
Somerville and Hiroki Koga, who met
pursuing MBA degrees at Berkeley.
Somerville had co-founded an avocado
company in Uganda, while Koga had
worked as a consultant in agriculture
technology in Japan.
The two built a northern New Jersey
research facility during 2017-2018 and
soon after started some commercial sales
to food service.
" We're the first indoor grower that's
been able to have happy bees on our
crops consistently, " Somerville said.
" Through our years of R&D, we've
created perfect pollination, which I
See OISHII, page 6
Farm labor challenges span decades
By Gary Pullano
This is another in a series of stories
that mark the 60th anniversary of Fruit
Growers News.
The social and economic forces that
have contributed to present trends
in the agricultural labor situation are
likely to continue. As a result, growers
will keep responding as in the past, so
more mechanization and less reliance
on manual labor are in the offing.
The above paragraph was published
more than 40 years ago in the January
1980 issue of The Great Lakes Fruit
Growers News.
That forecast was made by Michigan
State University (MSU) agricultural
economist Allen Shapley, a farm labor
specialist, before an audience at the
Raw Products Conference on Jan. 7,
1980, at the Hilton Inn in Lansing,
Michigan. The conference was a joint
undertaking of
the Michigan
and Freezers
Association and
Even in 1980,
where possible,
growers were
cutting back
their labor
supply or
eliminating it altogether, Shapley
said, because of the grief involved
in maintaining that supply. He said
such factors as a welter of government
regulations covering just about all
facets of farm operation from field
work and hiring to worker housing.
In addition, machines are easier to
deal with than people, and growers also
receive a form of harassment through
the negative reaction of the press and
biased stories that present farm laborers
as subjects of abuse, said Shapely, who
later in 1980 submitted his resignation
to Gov. William Milliken as chairman of
Michigan's Commission on Agricultural
Labor, a post he had held the previous
two years.
Shapley took a one-year sabbatical
from his MSU position and moved
to Vancouver, British Columbia,
See LABOR, page 7

May 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of May 2021

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