VANCOUVER, B.C. — Oppy and two partners are set to ship its first hydroponic tabletop strawberries in mid-December.
Grown by Santa Maria, Calif.-based Red Dog Management, the plants were rooted on elevated tables in Santa Maria in the first week of October.
Oppy, Red Dog and the third partner in the endeavor, Farmers Gate, formed New Wave Berry LLC for the venture. Product will ship under the Ocean Spray license in Happy Berry-branded packs.
The newly-constructed high tunnel facility grows protected strawberries on tables raised to chest height, making labor more ergonomically friendly for those planting, tending and harvesting the berries, according to Oppy.
Growing hydroponically also requires fewer inputs than field-grown strawberries. Because they are elevated, the ground beneath them does not require the intense fumigation between planting cycles typically applied in traditional production. Berries receive just the right nutrition, at just the right time while dramatically reducing water use, and greenhouse efficiencies enable all of those benefits for year-round production.
“Berry consumption continues to rise, outpacing the growth of other fruit items,” said Oppy Vice President of Categories and Strategy Jason Fung. “While we’re very encouraged to see this, macro level trends facing the industry like land availability, labor, water, sustainability and beyond continue to raise challenges. We seek to do better, and this new way of growing is really going to change things — we believe it represents the future of strawberry growing.”
That future relies heavily on sustainability, Fung noted. A recent study undertaken by Measure to Improve revealed that the equipment and materials used in the production of a pound of Happy Berry strawberries needs 20% less plastic than field grown strawberries, he said. With water challenges for agriculture throughout the world, especially in California, tabletop berries are grown in seamless troughs with a precise irrigation system that safeguards water reclamation and optimization.