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Food systems entrepreneurs sought to participate in 2023 Mahi‘ai Match-Up

Applications open June 6 to businesses wanting to improve food resiliency across Hawaiʻi pae ʻāina

June 7, 2023

Kamehameha Schools is putting out a kāhea for food systems entrepreneurs to apply for Mahi‘ai Match-up, a program that aims to grow and develop food systems-related businesses. In partnership with Ulupono Initiative, entrants compete for a chance to win cash prizes (up to $25,000) as well as access to strategic business development resources, including a three-month customized mentorship program. 

“Through Mahi‘ai Match-up, we strive to inspire ʻōiwi leaders to join this critical industry and help to increase the production of and access to healthy, affordable, local food for all,” said Kanakolu Noa, Interim Director of Sustainable Industries at Kamehameha Schools. “By inspiring and uplifting homegrown businesses, we can enhance Hawai‘i’s food sustainability, which we know directly impacts the health and wellbeing of our communities, economies, culture and ʻāina.”

The 2023 Mahi‘ai Match-Up program focuses on Native Hawaiian crops and invites applicants dedicated to cultivating indigenous and ancestral crops to apply. This year’s theme represents Kamehameha Schools’ work to revitalize the traditional foods that nourished Hawai‘i’s people for centuries and reintroduce these crops to modern cuisine.

Applicants must have a business idea and be seeking support to launch their business. They may also be looking for assistance with sourcing, brand development, website development, business plan development and more. A tangible prototype, product or working service is not required; rather, candidates should have the vision, team and desire to turn their food systems business idea into a full-time venture. Applications are due July 15, 2023. You can apply here.

Established in 2013 as an agricultural business plan competition, Mahi‘ai Match-Up aims to ignite innovative agricultural solutions, foster community connections and create educational pathways within our local food system. The program has resulted in:

  • 21 local businesses and entrepreneurs supported with prizes ranging from capital, land lease agreements, wraparound business resources and more
  • 14 businesses earned lease agreements—totaling 144 acres—on ʻāina Pauahi (Kamehameha Schools lands)
  • More than $450,000 awarded in prize money, including $70,000+ in college scholarships to 17 students pursuing careers in food systems
  • Farmers grew kalo, ‘ulu, ‘ōlena (turmeric), veggies, and other specialty crops and raised livestock like pigs.

“Over the past decade, we’ve connected farmers with ʻāina to grow Native Hawaiian staples like kalo and ‘ulu among other crops, raised and distributed capital to help local food system businesses scale their operations, invested in innovative agricultural technology and grew the pipeline of future mahiʻai and food system entrepreneurs to join this field,” said Kā‘eo Duarte, Vice President of Community and ʻĀina Resilience for Kamehameha Schools.

As a part of this year’s competition, Kamehameha Schools will also support businesses looking for the resources to get an existing food systems company ready for investment and those addressing scaling challenges with strategic training, resources and mentorship.

mahi'ai match-up,food systems, 'ōiwi leaders,agriculture

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