INNOVATION WITH PURPOSE
CHALLENGES OF HAWAI'I FARMERS TODAY
An Aging Workforce
According to a 2017 USDA census, in Hawaii there are only 757 farmers under the age of 35, 6,252 between the ages of 35-65, and 5,161 over the age of 65 (USDA, 2017). This aging workforce is concurrent with a stagnation in technological innovation, resulting in a majority of farm operations being executed manually (USDA, 2017). The high operation costs stemming from inefficient operations and supply chain mismanagement, paired with high overhead costs drive up the cost of local goods to non competitive levels, allowing imported goods to undercut locally grown produce (Kent, 2014). The 2012 self sufficiency bill stated, “The legislature further finds that each food product imported to Hawaii is a lost opportunity for local economic growth.” (Hawaii State Legislature, 2012). The annual in-state food-based farm revenue is estimated at $400 million, which pales in comparison to the $2 billion spent on imports.
Encroaching urban developments have increased the cost of real estate, placing a cap on the Hawaiian agricultural market to expand, where the 92% of local farms are less than 100 acres (Kent, 2014).
Imported foods have introduced foreign pests and parasites, at a rate of 20 new insect species per year and half of those are considered pests (DLNR CGAPS, 2014). Interviews with multiple farm owners have all reported significant amounts of produce loss with one farmer stating, “For every 5 cucumbers we harvest we lose 2 due to pests or disease.” (Ho Farms Personal Interview, 2019). These unfortunate circumstances cause local producers to increase their prices to make ends meet and some have gone out of business, further increasing Hawaii’s reliance on imported produce.
Hawaii State Legislature, Office of Planning, Department of Business Economic Development & Tourism (HDBEDT) in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture (HDOA). Increased Food Security and Food Self-Sufficiency Strategy. October 2012.
Hawaii State Legislature, Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species (CGAPS), Protecting Hawaii from Invasive Pests Findings and Recommendations from the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species. February 2014.
Kent, G. (n.d.). Food Security in Hawai'i. University of Hawaii. Department of Land and Natural Resources, State of Hawaii. (2014, February). PDF.
Takeguchi, A., Hollyer, J., Koga, W., Hakoda, M., Rohrbach, K., Bittenbender, H. C. S., … Eger, B. Hawaii’s Agricultural History, (2013, January).
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HAWAII'S AGRICULTURAL STATUS
Agricultural industries have historically been unsuccessful because of their inability to control bacterial and pest infestations and properly compensate their workers (Takeguchi, et al., 2013). Since small farm businesses did not have the chance to develop stable infrastructure and acquire more revenue, they did not have enough resources to advance their operations. Replacing Hawaii’s traditional sustainable agricultural methods, such as Ahuapua’a (Mueller-Dombois, 2007), with large scale operations has resulted in the degradation of soil qualities, vacancy of large processing facilities, stunting of diverse agricultural infrastructures, and socioeconomic disparity between farmers and consumers just within the last 100 years. Since diversified agriculture has not had a chance to thrive, over 80% of consumed food has to be imported (DLNR CGAPS, 2014), at a cost of more than $2 billion per year (Kent, 2014).
We are actively seeking collaborators and early adopters of our technology. We would be thrilled about putting a prototype of TropiGro in your hands to hear your thoughts and how to best serve you.