School Funding

Hawai’i Ulu farms get boost from Kamehameha schools


Photo courtesy of Kamehameha Schools.

(BIVN) – The Hawai’i ‘Ulu Co-operative is the Kamehameha Schools’ first investment to strengthen food self-sufficiency in Hawai’i, as part of a larger fundraising effort of $ 10 million.

Kamehameha schools recently shared a press release detailing the newly established Food Systems Fund and the $ 300,000 that goes towards ulu production. From KS:

In an effort to invest in local businesses and build Hawai’i’s economic resilience, Kamehameha Schools (KS) has created a new $ 10 million food systems fund, of which the first $ 300,000 is invested. in the Hawai’i ‘Ulu Cooperative to intensify its business operations. .

“The investment of the Kamehameha schools is extremely catalytic for the entire food chain,” said Kyle Datta, chairman of the board of directors of the Hawai’i ‘Ulu cooperative and owner of Mana’ Ulu, an ‘ulu farm. on KS farmland at Umauma on the island of Hawai’i.

KS Food Systems Fund focuses on investments in Hawai’i to support food production, distribution and aggregation, processing, purchasing, consumption, and addressing food waste issues. The fund, which is part of KS’s Hawai’i Targeted Investment Fund, targets both financial returns on investment as well as broader impacts on local jobs and career paths, and economic multiplier effects on the community.

“The fund seeks to invest in attractive companies – and their leaders – that will accelerate the revitalization and diversification of food systems, including our own KS portfolio of ‘āina and tenants,” said Kā’eo Duarte, vice president of KS Community and of ‘á¾¹ina Resiliency. . “The creation of this fund allows KS to invest more directly in companies that aim to provide healthy, accessible food to feed Hawaii and beyond, as part of a resilient economy with new jobs and new pathways. careers. “

The fund’s first investor, Hawai’i ‘Ulu Co-operative, is a farmer-owned company working to revitalize ulu or breadfruit as a viable crop and staple food by empowering farmers by as agents of change in Hawai’i food systems. Other crops such as taro, pumpkin and sweet potatoes are also grouped together and processed by the cooperative.

Formed in 2016 with nine diverse small producers on the island of Hawai’i, the cooperative has grown to include more than 100 member farms on the island of Hawai’i, Maui and O’ahu. The cooperative also uses the KS post-harvest processing facility on KS land in ‘Alae on the island of Hawai’i as a central location for farmers to process their crops for the market.

“This investment from Kamehameha schools will help the cooperative move to the next phase,” said Hawai’i ‘Ulu cooperative general manager Dana Shapiro, also an’ ulu farmer whose Māla Kalu’ulu farm was a former winner. of KS ‘Mahi’ai Match-Up and Scale-up Business Plan Competition. “For us, that goes from demonstrating the feasibility of our model to becoming a fully-fledged economically profitable business and a business capable of giving back to our farmers, the community and our investors on an ongoing basis.”

Datta said KS’s investment helps mobilize financial support from other donors and allows the cooperative to complete its manufacturing expansion plans and invest in personnel for processing and marketing at statewide.

“The fact that Kamehameha Schools invest in us has made it possible for other impact investors and other Hawaiian investors to stand out. It gave them confidence because we had the Kamehameha schools behind us. Kamehameha Schools is the anchor, ”said Datta.

KS invests in equity, debt and hybrid investment models in local food system businesses to build resilient economies.

“Kamehameha Schools invests in Hawai’i-based food producers, processors, distributors and aggregators who are committed to food self-sufficiency. Innovators and disruptors, who will simultaneously support multiple producers or address unmet needs, are ideal businesses, ”said Pia Chock, who manages the KS Food Systems Fund.

KS manages over 181,000 acres of farmland in Hawai’i which produces nearly 19 million pounds of food annually. The farmers of KS lands cultivate a variety of vegetables, orchards and special crops and raise livestock.

“My hope is that this investment demonstrates to other investors and food projects that investing in Hawaiian agriculture is a smart investment. Investing in us gives us a financial return, but it also offers greater long-term returns in terms of the environment, sustainability, climate resilience, supporting farmers, our agricultural fabric and investing in the next generation and our communities, ”Shapiro said.