November 24, 2021 (bizjournals.com) by Stephanie Salmons
Kamehameha Schools, or KS, has created a new $10 million Food Systems Fund, $300,000 of which has gone in an investment to the Hawaii Island-based Hawaii Ulu Cooperative to scale its business operations.
The fund, which is part of Kamehameha Schools' Hawaii Targeted Investment Fund, is focused on investments within the state to support food production, distribution, aggregation, processing, purchasing, consumption and solving food waste challenges, according to officials with KS.
“The fund looks to invest in compelling businesses – and their leaders – who will accelerate the revitalization and diversification of food systems, including our own KS portfolio of aina and tenants,” KS Community and Aina Resiliency Vice President Ka‘eo Duarte said in a statement. “Creation of this fund enables KS to more directly invest in enterprises that aim to provide healthy and accessible food to feed Hawaii and beyond, as part of a resilient economy with new jobs and career pathways.”
Hawaii Ulu Cooperative is a farmer-owned business that is working to revitalize ulu, or breadfruit, as a viable crop and dietary staple.
The cooperative was formed in 2016 with nine small, diversified growers on Hawaii Island, but has grown to include more than 100 member-farms on Hawaii Island, Maui and Oahu, according to KS officials. The co-op also uses Kamehameha Schools' post-harvest processing facility on KS lands in Alae on Hawaii Island.\
“This investment from Kamehameha Schools will help the co-op grow to the next phase,” Hawaii Ulu Cooperative General Manager Dana Shapiro, who also is an ulu farmer, said in a statement. “For us, that is scaling from demonstrating the feasibility of our model to becoming an economically-profitable business in our own right and a business that is able to give back to our farmers, the community and our investors on an ongoing basis.”
“Kamehameha Schools’ investment is extraordinarily catalytic to the entire food chain,” Kyle Datta, Hawaii Ulu Cooperative board president and owner of Mana Ulu, an ulu farm on KS agricultural land in Umauma on Hawaii Island, said in a statement.
The investment from KS also helps the co-op leverage financial support from other funder and finish plans to expand manufacturing and invest in personnel for processing and statewide marketing, Datta said.
As of 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, a KS spokesperson did not respond to questions from PBN seeking additional details about the new fund and how money will be distributed.
“My hope is that this investment demonstrates to other investors and food projects that investing in Hawaii agriculture is a smart investment. Investing in us does provide a financial return but it also provides for more important long-run returns in terms of environmental, sustainability, climate resilience, farmer support, our agricultural fabric and investing in the next generation and our communities,” Shapiro said.