search logo


Kamehameha Schools, Ulupono Initiative Invest $50,000 in the Future of Hawai‘i’s Agriculture Industry, Food System

HAWAI‘I ISLAND (June 25, 2020) – Kamehameha Schools (KS) and Ulupono Initiative announced today the winners of the MahiX open innovation challenge to develop out-of-the-box solutions to some of Hawai‘i’s most pressing agriculture issues.

Modeled after the XPRIZE, MahiX is a component of Kamehameha Schools’ Mahi‘ai a Ola initiative, which strives to promote sustainable agriculture and revitalize Hawai‘i’s farming industry.

Instead of one large investment, KS and Ulupono Initiative are investing a combined total of $50,000 in the following winning array of diverse solutions for the future of Hawai‘i’s agricultural industry and food system: 

  • Two new technologies that include:
    • SmartWater CSI – A first in Hawai‘i, a partnership with the Hawai‘i County Prosecutor’s Office to use technology to help protect farmers’ assets against theft. The project will receive $20,000 that will include purchasing kits for farmers leasing KS agricultural land.
    • Hawai‘i Island Farm Trails smartphone application and website – An expansion of Hawai‘i Island Farm Trails app and website – which support agritourism and connect farmers to visitors by promoting farm tours, farmers markets, and agricultural events on Hawai‘i Island – to also include promotions of farm-to-table restaurants and community supported agriculture. This project will receive $5,000.
  • A collective impact initiative – Hāmākua Institute and Hawai‘i Island Agriculture Partnership (HIAP) will conduct a feasibility study of developing an Agricultural Innovation Center in East Hawai‘i to address food processing, storage and distribution needs. This initiative will receive $20,000.
  • Policy research and solutions – Partnering with The Kohala Center to form an agricultural housing policy working group focused on formulating an action plan that will facilitate the development of agricultural housing on Hawai‘i Island. A total of $5,000 will be invested in the project.

“While Native Hawaiians have traditionally practiced sustainable farming, MahiX allows us to explore a modern approach to mahi‘ai by pursuing innovative strategies and advancements in technology,” said Marissa Harman, KS asset management director for Hawai‘i Island. “Through this initiative, we can support our farmers and people on the front lines working to solve for resilient solutions to the modern challenges that farmers face in putting food on the table for Hawai‘i families."

“Ulupono Initiative is committed to a more sustainable Hawai‘i, which we work to achieve through our support of locally produced food, renewable energy, clean transportation, and better management of freshwater and waste. Especially now as our state sets out toward recovery, we see clearly how our dependence on importing 90% of our food and the just-in-time delivery model has left our community exposed,” said Amy Hennessey, senior vice president of communications and external affairs for Ulupono Initiative. “MahiX encourages innovation within the agriculture sector to introduce and test new ideas, products, methods and partnerships tailored to Hawai‘i’s specific needs and values to help build a more self-sufficient and resilient food system.”

In 2017, the Hawaiʻi County Prosecutor’s Office created an agriculture investigator program with the goals of reducing agricultural crime and helping to educate and protect the community. 

“The Hawaii County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney’s office recognizes that agriculture plays a key role in our island’s economy and its sustainability. Equipment and infrastructure thefts and property damage on our farms and ranches makes it difficult for our agriculture community to produce a competitive product,” said Shane Muramaru, agricultural crimes investigator for the Hawai‘i County Prosecutor’s Office. “The introduction of SmartWater CSI technology into the County of Hawai‘i will deter thefts and support the Prosecutor’s office in the investigation of agricultural crimes.”

“Our organization started because of Mahi‘ai Matchup so we feel very honored to be selected for MahiX, and we are excited about the direction that we are taking together with KS in the agricultural industry,” said Kalisi Mausio, co-founder of Hawai‘i Island Farm Trails project and co-founder of Kaivao Farm. “The project increases the capacity of agritourism and can directly benefit farmers in Hawai‘i statewide, as well as farmers who are Kamehameha Schools lessees such as ourselves. As small-scale farmers, this project also provides options for us to diversify our farm products.”

The Hāmākua Institute facilitates the collective efforts of the HIAP to grow Hawai‘i Island’s agricultural sector. In addition to supporting the operations of HIAP, MahiX will fund Hāmākua Institute’s work with HIAP’s members to assess agricultural systems and identify key opportunities to increase value-added processing infrastructure and services.

“We are grateful to be a recipient of MahiX support as it gives us an exciting opportunity to leverage and complement the important work of so many farmers, agencies, educators and non-profits who are committed to our island’s agricultural heritage and food sustainability,” said Dennis Flemming, executive director of the Hāmākua Institute. “This will help Hawai‘i Island Agriculture Partnership improve the viability and resilience of Hawai‘i Island’s farms and food supply for its communities.”

“Disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic have prompted many of us in Hawai‘i’s agricultural sector to rethink how to build local food systems that are more ecologically, socially, culturally, and economically viable,” said Nicole Milne, vice president of food and agriculture initiatives at The Kohala Center. “We must begin crafting solutions that increase access to quality local food for all residents of Hawai‘i, regardless of economic position. The investments made by KS in Hawai‘i’s mahi‘ai and agricultural initiatives through the Mahi‘ai a Ola program promote the development of food systems that are responsive to community and producer needs.”

Mahi‘ai a Ola is an initiative that evolved from the Mahi‘ai Match-Up program as 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. Mahi‘ai Match-Up: An agricultural business plan competition in which the winner is awarded a five-year land agreement with KS and a $10,000 cash prize donated by Ulupono Initiative. This year’s winner, Mana ‘Ōlena, is a family-owned farm business that specializes in growing certified organic orange and black ‘ōlena and conventional ‘ulu – two original plants that traveled with ancient Polynesians across the Pacific to the Hawaiian Islands. The winner will also receive the support of KS land asset managers, along with wrap-around business services and financial guidance from The Kohala Center.
  2. Mahi‘ai a Ao: Scholarship awards for various agriculture-related educational programs, in partnership with GoFarm Hawaiʻi and the Pauahi Foundation.
  3. MahiX: An open innovation challenge seeking cooperative solutions to Hawai‘i’s most pressing agricultural issues.

Funds raised on behalf of Mahi‘ai a Ola will provide scholarships and funding for new and innovative ideas and initiatives that support agriculture and food security. To learn more about Mahi‘ai a Ola, visit


Kawaiaha‘o Plaza

567 South King St
Honolulu, HI 96813
(808) 523-6200

KS Hawai‘i

16-716 Volcano Rd
Kea‘au, HI 96749
(808) 982-0000

KS Kapālama

1887 Makuakāne St
Honolulu, HI 96817
(808) 842-8211

KS Maui

275 ‘A‘apueo Pkwy
Pukalani, HI 96768
(808) 572-3100