Oppy Happy Berry hydroponic strawberries

Oppy is set to launch a specialty hydroponic tabletop strawberry concept under the Ocean Spray license, and utilising the new Happy Berry label.

It comes after Oppy 'rooted thousands of strawberry plants on elevated tables the first week of October'.

The strawberries, which will be available in mid-December, have been developed by New Wave Berry, a joint venture formed by Oppy, agricultural investment firm Farmers Gate and family-owned agribusiness Red Dog Management, which is growing the crop in Santa Maria, California.

According to Oppy, the newly-constructed high tunnel facility grows protected strawberries on tables raised to chest height, making labour more ergonomically friendly for those planting, tending and harvesting the berries.

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.

Oppy explained that berries receive 'just the right nutrition, at just the right time' while dramatically reducing water use, and greenhouse efficiencies enable 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, labour, 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 relied heavily on sustainability, Fung noted, sharing that 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 entails 20 per cent less plastic than field-grown strawberries.

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 optimisation.

“Even with all the benefits of hydroponic strawberries, we know it can be difficult to introduce something new that consumers aren’t typically familiar with,” Fung continued. “Trust goes a long way to motivate a purchase decision, which is why the licensing of Ocean Spray’s logo helps encourage consumers to pick up a new item.

'Happy Berry was the perfect fit for this pack, building a memorable, positive and inviting brand around Ocean Spray’s already established positioning.”

Bringing field berries to the market for several years with Oppy, owners of Red Dog Management Greg and Donna France said: “It’s been a really exciting project to get off the ground, we’ve had great support from our team and from the industry. We’re thrilled to be working with Oppy to differentiate a mature category and add value for customers and consumers.”

The Frances also noted that there had been 'remarkable interest' from domestic workers to be a part of the new line, considering labour is less arduous for those tending to the tables.

“We look forward to welcoming a happy new year with Happy Berry and enlisting many happy markets,” they concluded.