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All 24 entrants in this year’s Mahi‘ai Scale-up competition will receive free business training and support through KS partnerships with the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement and The Kohala Center (TKC). Cash prizes are at stake. Learn about the business owners by clicking on the link at the end of the story.

A mushroom grower, a juice maker and more: Meet this year’s Mahi‘ai Scale-up competitors

Apr. 22, 2021

A vertical mushroom farm in Kailua-Kona, a juice joint in Kahului, a food Hub on O ‘ahu and a tropical fruit farm on Kaua‘i. These are just some of the participants in this year’s Mahi‘ai Scale-up, Kamehameha Schools’ agricultural business plan competition that helps established local farms and food system organizations grow their businesses.

Mahi‘ai Scale-up is a component of KS’ Mahi‘ai a Ola program, which seeks to improve Hawai‘i’s food resiliency and security. The competition invited established farmers, distributors, processors and aggregators –  Hawai‘i’s “growers” and “gatherers” – to submit proposals to expand their businesses in new and creative ways. Finalists will be selected this week and winners will be announced on May 13. Cash prizes are at stake.

The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA), Ulupono Initiative and The Kohala Center (TKC) are partnering with KS to provide all participants with business training and wraparound services. This year, the competition welcomes new sponsors Turtle Bay, Mahi Pono, Natural Investments and Sensei Ag.

CNHA is providing participants with business training through a special edition of its KūHana Business Program focused on food system businesses. The 10-week intensive program offers technical assistance services and various courses to help participants grow and strengthen their businesses.

“We are inspired and impressed by this year’s cohort,” said CNHA’s Max Mukai, program manager overseeing KūHana Business. “These businesses come from across the pae ‘āina and they truly embody all the different ideas, innovations, products and services that are out there making up the various components of Hawai‘i’s food system. As we head into judging, we are looking forward to learning more about how these businesses intend to expand and contribute to Hawai‘i’s resilient economy.”

TKC will collaborate with the Mahi‘ai Scale-up cohort to support operations and business plan development.

Mahi‘ai a Ola is an initiative that provides an opportunity to increase agricultural awareness in support of the farming industry, while reinvigorating innovation, community connections and a commitment to future generations. Mahi‘ai a Ola is made up of three programs:  

  1. Mahiʻai Match-Up & Scale-Up: Business plan competitions to start or scale agricultural businesses.
  2. Mahi‘ai a Ao: Scholarship awards for various agriculture-related educational programs, in partnership with the Pauahi Foundation.
  3. MahiX: An open innovation challenge seeking cooperative solutions to Hawai‘i’s most pressing agricultural issues. 

This year’s Scale-up is being held in conjunction with KS’ Eat Local Challenge, a new internal campaign for KS employees which celebrates and explores supporting local food in Hawaiʻi that connects us to our food system.

Take a peek and meet this year’s Mahi‘ai Scale-up/ KūHana cohort!

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