Tatsumi Strawberries: King of fruit ripens in Clive

A country road in Clive is home to Tatsumi New Zealand, a high tech strawberry growing operation owned by Japanese interests. Tatsumi grows strawberries year round in two glass houses, replicating its Japanese based operation.

Japan’s harsh summers are too hot for strawberry cultivation, explains Takushi Matsunaga, Director of Tatsumi New Zealand, and that’s where the Clive operation comes into its own.

“For the Japanese summer, we ship weekly from May through December, averaging around 2.5 tonnes each week once full production is reached. The strawberries travel overnight by road to Auckland, and they land in Japan later that day,” he says.

Tatsumi New Zealand’s multi-million dollar project is in its second season and, as we write, is just months away from full production. In the packing shed the strawberries are packed in special boxes, with the export fruit picked early, as it colours, but doesn’t sweeten on the journey.

The numbers are impressive:

  • Around 19,000m2 of above-ground growing space
  • 224 rows of plants
  • Around 15,000 planters, each holding multiple plants
  • 100,000 strawberry plants at full production
  • 150 tonne per annum output once fully operational


The strawberries are planted on tables, in above-ground planters, similar to hydroponics, but are planted in a special recipe growing mix, developed by the Japanese technical team. The growing house is fully automated with an environment control system. Bumblebees pollinate the crop, and the plants’ fertigation (water/fertiliser) is controlled and measured. The growing trays will soon have “outriggers” extending the plant horizontally, enabling the fruit to hang, making picking easier.

Currently around 16 people are employed, but more are needed to do the early morning picking, before the shed gets too hot.

Tatsumi is primarily focussed on growing for the Japanese export market. Interestingly, the way in which Japanese consumers like to eat strawberries is a little different to New Zealand, explains Takushi.

“The strawberry is the king of fruit for confectionary, so a lot of our fruit is sold for use in baking, patisserie, and desserts like parfaits, all year round. We don’t want the fruit to be too sweet, as it dominates the flavour of the dessert. In the winter, Japanese people will eat strawberries as a piece of fruit.”

Locally, Tatsumi strawberries can be found in Bellatino’s, and the company is also supplying specialty Chinese supermarkets in Auckland.

Future aspirations are to reach full production, increase planting density, and establish the Tatsumi name as a quality provider, says Project Manager Mike Harper.

“We can supply all year, and produce strawberries when no other growers can. We don’t see ourselves in supermarkets.

“This year has been a big learning year, from a plant health and production point of view and the setup, it’s looking amazing.”


Read the full article: Hawke’s Bay’s mystery businesses … Part 1  |  First published by BayBuzz