Packer 25 2020 — Marc Oshima
Marc Oshima thinks big.
Oshima is cofounder and chief marketing officer of indoor vertical grower AeroFarms, Newark, N.J.
Yet Oshima and his company do more than grow leafy greens: He is trying to improve the industry as a whole.
“My passion and focus, and what we’re trying to do with AeroFarms, is how do we increase consumption and how do we help the industry move forward?” Oshima said.
Founded in 2004 in Ithaca, N.Y., AeroFarms’ 170-member team of science experts and warehouse employees creates the aeroponic and lighting technology for growing leafy greens by misting nutrient-filled water under LED lights.
The produce is sold at major retailers — such as Shop Rite and FreshDirect in the Northeast — in the urban vicinity of its farms and joint-venture farms in Ithaca, Newark, Chicago, Seattle and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
“We actually do proprietary research for major Fortune 500 companies to be able to help them solve their ag supply-chain needs. We’ve grown over 850 types of crops,” Oshima said.
Oshima’s far-reaching, global perspective was planted at a young age through extensive travel and exploring the foods of other cultures.
“That’s always given me an appreciation for our differences and the things that unite us,” he said.
Half Japanese and half German, Oshima studied East Asian studies at Columbia University to learn more about his Japanese identity, which was whitewashed after his father and that side of the family were held at Japanese internment camps in California in the 1940s. After graduation, Oshima’s job at a media research company opened his eyes to the world of marketing, so he returned to Columbia for a master’s degree in business administration.
He then managed brands at Kraft and L’Oreal and led the marketing department for Toys “R” Us in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
Oshima’s introduction to the food industry began when he became marketing director for The Food Emporium under the A&P banner. He was then vice president of marketing for Citarella, named by Gourmet Retailer magazine as one of the top 50 specialty food retailers in the U.S.
Soon after, Oshima met David Rosenberg and cofounded AeroFarms with him and Cornell science professor Ed Harwood.
Their mission-driven company became a Certified B Corp. to focus on how businesses can be a force for good by using a scorecard and framework that applies across industries.
“One of the things that’s really important is that we have a common language about how we think about problems, but more importantly, solutions,” Oshima said.
Oshima is a smart guy with a generous spirit who benefits the whole fresh-produce industry, said Cathy Burns, CEO of the Produce Marketing Association, where Oshima is a board member.
“I can’t say enough about his innovative thinking and his marketing experience. Those two are a powerful combination if you think about the work that the produce industry is doing to address problems in supply chain, sustainable packaging, food safety and water,” Burns said. “Having his voice contribute to solutions helps PMA’s vision to make a better world.”
Oshima’s company is involved in the World Economic Forum and United Nations Sustainable Development Group and develops curriculum with Cornell and Rutgers universities. He’s on the board of the Controlled Environment Agriculture Food Safety Coalition.
Oshima was a member of the Food and Drug Administration romaine task force and works closely with the Foundation of Food & Agriculture Research’s Precision Indoor Plant consortium.
“This is an exciting time for us as a company and the work we’re doing because it’s no longer about urban farming or indoor vertical farming, but agriculture overall,” Oshima said.