Māla Kalu‘ulu owners Noa Lincoln and Dana Shapiro won the $20,000 Mahi’ai Scale-Up grand prize.- Photo: Courtesy Kamehameha Schools

Malā Kaluʻulu, a cooperative business that grows ʻulu and ʻōlena in Keʻei, Hawaiʻi, received the $20,000 grand prize in the 2017 Mahiʻai Scale-Up agricultural business plan contest for its proposal to establish Hawaiʻi’s first commercial facility for ʻulu, a traditional Polynesian staple known as breadfruit.

Kamehameha Schools and the Pauahi Foundation awarded the prize Nov. 1 at the Hawaiʻi Food & Wine Festival’s Raw & Wild in the Tank event, where Kaunāmano Farm, a Hilo-based producer of Berkshire hogs, earned the People’s Choice Award of $10,000 in a live vote by attendees.

Berkshire hog producer Kaunāmano Farm won the $10,000 People’s Choice Award. – Photo: Courtesy Kamehameha Schools

Mahiʻai Scale-Up targets and challenges seasoned individuals and entities in the agricultural industry to grow and enhance their business by implementing a new program or initiative. Both awardees are previous winners of the Mahiʻai Match-Up agricultural business plan contest, which has granted five-year agreements to seven startups that utilize KS lands and seed money to execute their business plans. The overall effort aims to increase food security and sustainability in Hawaiʻi.

“We have our own farm but also represent 27 additional breadfruit farmers, so it helps build a movement. It’s a collective dream that’s coming true,” said Noa Lincoln, who operates Malā Kaluʻulu with his wife, Dana Shapiro. “Kamehameha Schools is a key stakeholder in addressing a lot of the agricultural challenges in the state, and it’s great to see a program like Mahiʻai Scale-Up because it demonstrates how much good KS can do. People in the state need to step up to increase diversified agriculture production, and for us, KS granting access to land and capital has been instrumental to growing and building our operation.”

Kaunāmano Farm’s “scaled-up business concept” would use modern tools and materials to “replicate and economize the ancient ahupuaʻa system, particularly the way wai (water) plays a key role throughout the ahupuaʻa. By creating a livestock watering structure that incorporates biological filters similar to those found within the ahupuaʻa system, the end result will be cleaner water, richer soil and healthier livestock.”

Brandon Lee, who operates Kaunāmano Farm with Kaikena Scanlan, said: “We need to look at sustainability not as a flavor or as a marketing buzzword, but as a history of the Native Hawaiian people who were able to live in these islands while thriving and being successful in the most isolated land mass in the world. The Mahiʻai Scale-Up allows us to let everybody know what we’re doing on the farm and it’s great for Hawaiʻi. It takes work, and I’m willing to do the work.”

Of the People’s Choice Award, Lee added, “It’s like being the most popular kid in school!”

Contest semifinalists were: ʻĀina Pono Livestock & Land Maintenance LLC, a Hilo-based company raising goats and sheep for food consumption and to keep as pets; Island Manaʻia LLC, based in Hawaiʻi Kai, producer of value-added cassava snack products; Ka Papa O Heʻe Kalo, cultivating kalo, ʻawa and cacao through modern and traditional farming practices in Punaluʻu, Oʻahu; and Keiki and Plow, a Hawaiʻi Kai farm growing various organic vegetables and fruits and offering organic eggs through immersive agriculture.

“As a large agricultural landowner, KS believes in supporting Hawaiʻi’s food security initiatives and stimulating the economy by increasing the number of local agricultural producers,” said KS Senior Land Asset Manager Kalani Fronda.

Dana Shapiro of Māla Kaluʻulu and Brandon Lee of Kaunāmano Farm at the Mahiʻai Scale-Up awards. – Photo: Courtesy Kamehameha Schools