KS launches Mahi'ai Scale-up to support local farmers, food distributors

Jan. 12, 2021

The agricultural business plan competition provides participants with business training, wraparound services

Contributed by Crystal Kua

Kamehameha Schools launched Mahi‘ai Scale-up, an agricultural business plan competition that helps established local farms and food system organizations grow their businesses. In partnership with the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA) and The Kohala Center (TKC), the program provides participants with business training and wraparound services.

“Kamehameha Schools is focused on supporting Hawaiʻi’s food system, aiming to produce more healthy, affordable local food for all and developing career pathways for ʻōiwi leaders to foster a resilient economy,” said KS Vice President of Community & ‘Āina Resiliency Kā‘eo Duarte. “With this year’s Mahi‘ai Scale-up, we plan to support agricultural businesses to expand their operations in areas that will increase production and connect products with consumers.”

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 invites established farmers, distributors, processors and aggregators, our “growers” and “gatherers,” to submit proposals that will expand their businesses in new and creative ways. All food systems businesses are welcome to apply. The application deadline is February 12.

“In pursuit of a thriving lāhui, this effort reinforces our commitment to connecting farmers, communities and the lands we steward,” Duarte said. “From hands-in-the-dirt farmers to post-harvest packaging and distribution, our goal is to support local food production throughout the pae ʻāina.”

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

“The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement is proud to be a partner with Kamehameha Schools’ Mahi‘ai Scale-Up competition.” CNHA CEO Kūhiō Lewis said. “As we leverage our community resources, we are thrilled to be able to support the KūHana – Food Systems Edition Cohort in an effort to uplift our ag economy, which is of great importance now more than ever.”

TKC will collaborate with the Mahi‘ai Scale-up cohort and walk them through wraparound business services to support their operations and business plan development. 

“Like our partners at KS, we seek deeper pilina with the ‘āina by working with and as mahi‘ai,” said Cheryl Ka‘uhane Lupenui, president and chief executive officer of TKC. “As part of a caring and supportive community food system, we assist local food producers in making a living that is firmly grounded in and of Hawai‘i.”

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 expand 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

KS stewards more than 181,000 acres of agricultural land across Hawai‘i. Farmers on KS land grow a variety of vegetables, orchard and specialty crops, and raise livestock.

To apply for Mahi‘ai Scale-up go to https://www.hawaiiancouncil.org/kuhana. To learn more about Mahi‘ai a Ola, visit www.ksbe.edu/mahiai.

Mahi‘ai Scale-up in the news:

Kamehameha Schools to offer cash prize for best agriculture plan
KS Vice President of Community & ‘Āina Resiliency Kā‘eo Duarte shares Mahi‘ai Scale-up details on a segment of KHON 2's "Take2." 




Mahi‘ai Scale-up aims to assist farmers and food distributors wanting to expand their operations like Dana Shapiro of Māla Kalu‘ulu, left, who won the $20,000 grand prize of the 2017 Mahi‘ai Scale-up and Brandon Lee of Kaunamano Farms who garnered the competition’s $10,000 People’s Choice Prize.