Vertical farming has long done a very good job with a very thin sliver of the agricultural marketplace. Specifically, years of advancements in hydroponics and greenhouse farming have made it possible to grow a fine head of lettuce and other leafy greens under the glow of LED lighting.
Now, suddenly, everyone wants in on the strawberry market. Well, not all of a sudden, exactly — a lot of this research has been happening behind the scenes for years now, fine-tuning things like robotic pollination, which are required to bring the crops to life indoors. Bowery recently fired a massive volley, harvesting the fruits of years of research in limited quantities for select retailers. And you know what? They were perfectly okay!
I’ve got the same questions around berries as I do every other vertical crop. Pricing, for instance, is a big one. Bowery’s recent $15 two-pack wasn’t the most expensive pack of strawberries I’ve seen (strangely), but competing with the market is going to require prices to come down considerably with scaling.
This morning, vertical farming firm OnePointOne announced a deal with the delightfully named longstanding California Giant Berry Farms to follow Bowery to bring their own vertically grown strawberries to market. No time frame for the deal has been announced, but the offering will also be available through the OnePointOne-connected Willo Farm D2C offering.
The technology is designed to supplement field-growth, which is subject to things like seasonality — not an issue when growing indoors. Other stated benefits are the ability to grow the fruit in a far broader geographical range, for the same reason.
Indoor farming also affords growers the ability to effectively micromanage different inputs, including light and water, in ways that are far more difficult in the field. As such, the companies are looking to develop their own custom cultivar for the process.