Dave Akahoshi of Plan Berries Talks Launch of Masterplan Strawberry Label
SANTA MARIA, CA - Getting a new label off the ground is a major undertaking, and if you are Dave Akahoshi, Founder and Co-owner of Plan Berries Inc, then you take “off the ground” literally.
The company recently launched its flagship label, Masterplan strawberries, which are hydroponically grown off the ground in raised beds under hoop houses. I connected with Dave, whose enthusiasm can’t be missed, for an update on the initiative since its debut with West coast retail partners.
“The launch couldn’t be going better. Thanks to our innovative controlled environment growing process, we’re able to give our plants the ideal nutrient feed which results in optimal flavor, sizing, and quality. We’ve been seeing strawberries as large as 6-8 count which are very dense and red all the way through,” Dave shares with me. “We are packing in a single layer 1 lb clamshell, which was designed to minimize mechanical damages or bruising from transportation. It also makes the cooling process more efficient, which our retail partners love since it enhances and lengthens the shelf-life!”
When I ask Dave what one of the biggest milestones was in the launch, he answers without hesitation: packaging.
“We are committed to the health of the earth and aside from our innovative growing method, one of the biggest wins was our 100 percent recyclable clamshell,” Dave tells me. “It tooks 6 months of putting the pieces together with DPI and Robert Mann Packaging , who have been tremendous partners. We learned that adhesives from labels can cause problems which make many packages non-recyclable, so we created a solution that is completely recyclable. When we made the commitment to be sustainable, we meant it.”
As I talk with Dave, I can see that sustainability is clearly a key focus for the process oriented company. The hydroponic strawberries are grown in a coconut husk substrate, which is reusable for up to five seasons and boasts a slew of environmental advantages. And the above ground, controlled environment hoop houses are not only Earth conscious, but extremely efficient. He notes that another big win for the company has been its ability to grow without the use of fumigants.
“Our method gives us almost total control, and we believe this is the future of berries. We are seeing 50 percent of the average water use, and 50 percent of the average waste. We need 60 percent of the standard labor, and there is a 30 percent increase in labor efficiency since the fruit is more accessible. We can also plant and harvest two seasons in just twelve calendar months,” Dave offers. “This is moving the category forward, and we’re treating it as a completely new category, with a new UPC. It allows us to nail the cost, be more sustainable, and offer tailored programs to meet retailers needs.”
Aside from the impressive innovations and attention to detail, I can see that offering solutions to retail partners is a priority for the company.
"We strive for mutually beneficial partnerships with companies who fit with the model and care about process,” Dave adds. “We don’t have traditional constraints, and our approach helps us help our customers offer farm-stand, full-flavored berries to the consumer on a consistent basis, while hitting production numbers that retailers need within a short window.”
The future looks bright for Dave and the Plan Berries team, with plans already in motion to expand this summer and fall.
As growers continue to bring more innovations to the table, follow along with AndNowUKnow as we continue to report.