In order to be competitive one needs to be farming at an economy of scale and price point differentials that work, particularly when the competition is imported from continent based mega-farms.

By Bruce Mathews.

Bruce Mathews
Bruce Mathews

While there have been calls for at least 50 years for the state of Hawaiʻi to improve its food self-sufficiency and hence food security, the progress to reduce dependence on imports has been painfully slow. This being said, community interest in increasing locally grown food is rapidly expanding. However, interest alone will not be sufficient to turn the dial substantially without major changes in consumer behavior or extreme market distortions.

Economies of scale

In order to be competitive one needs to be farming at an economy of scale and price point differentials that work, particularly when the competition is imported from continent based mega-farms. Even in Hawaiʻi the entrepreneurial produce farmer success stories that are most often mentioned tend to be on the larger side. It takes a unique mix of entrepreneurial skills, hard work, and capital access to make a decent middle class living let alone a small fortune as a family farmer. Locally grown produce may become more competitive as continental growers deal with increasing water costs and climate change.

The agreement supports cooperative research activities and the exchange of researchers and students.

By Christoher Lu.

Upon invitation, I visited the Institute of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Medicine at Guizhou Academy of Agricultural Sciences during the summer of 2016. I presented an invited paper entitled “Overview of Global Meat Goat Industry.”

There are approximately one billion goats in the world, mostly for meat purposes. The top ten countries with the largest goat populations are China, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Iran, and Mali. There are about three million goats in the United States with a continued increasing trend since 1980s.

At the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management at UH Hilo, we are concerned with food production and sustainability, and we value and promote all effective agricultural systems.

By Michael Shintaku, Professor of Plant Pathology.

Michael Shintaku
Michael Shintaku

We have some very serious plant disease problems in Hawai‘i, and plant disease issues keep farmers and conservationists awake at night, as disease-causing pathogens too often take everything away.

A good example of technology used for plant disease management is right in our own back yard. Papaya ringspot virus (PRSV) arrived in Puna in 1992 and rapidly spread through Puna and Kea‘au, killing every papaya tree it infected. The industry and almost every backyard papaya tree would be long gone if not for the transgenic solution provided by Dr. Dennis Gonsalves’s research team, who developed transgenic papaya plants (now widely planted) with PRSV resistance.

A move to Organic and Organic Plus strategies in food production is how Hawai‘i food producers take back the power of the Hawai‘i brand.

By Joshua Willing, Student, AG100, Introduction to Agricultural Sciences.

Rows of lettuce.
A field of certified organic lettuce grows at Robb Farms in Waimea, Hawai‘i Island. Photo courtesy of The Kohala Center.

Food production in Hawai‘i sits in the middle of a great paradox, at once a lush natural paradise with a perfect climate for growing things, yet isolated, leading to inflated costs for Hawaii’s producers. The future of the Hawai‘i food industry will depend on producers’ ability to navigate a way that respects these inherent costs while utilizing the many benefits of the islands. Producers must decide on a model that best suits the economy.

My argument here is that this model already exists, and by using branding–in this case the brand of Hawai‘i itself–we will mitigate many unavoidable costs while at the same time enhancing the desirability of Hawai‘i’s food products. This will rely heavily on the Hawai‘i food industry as a whole moving toward an “Organic Plus” strategy (going beyond current organic standards), the goals of which coincide nicely with the natural boons of Hawai‘i’s food production.