AGRICULTURAL INNOVATION CENTER
When the Hawaiʻi Island Agriculture Partnership (HIAP) was established in 2019, its members identified the need for greater infrastructure and capacity to process more local agricultural produce using a multi-purpose, multi-crop processing hub serving small farms throughout the island. HIAP members felt such a hub could catalyze innovation and improve the profitability of the island’s small farms by increasing opportunities for producing and marketing more value added products.
The planned Agriculture Innovation Center (AIC) is designed to address that identified need. It represents a partnership between the Hāmākua Institute, the County of Hawaiʻi, The Food Basket, New Venture Advisors and other partners committed to a shared strategy for building capacity and opportunity in processing, transportation, aggregation, storage, and distribution; what can be referred to as the “messy middle” of the island’s agricultural value chains. A shared public-private effort to increase cooperation and coordination within these value chain functions represents the most immediate and impactful means of increasing small farm viability and stimulating increased agricultural production on the island.
The AIC will work on overcoming the systemic constraints in agricultural value chains that are holding back small farm growth and mobilizing public-private cooperation to recognize them as engines of economic growth and food security on the island. It will facilitate the most effective alignment of public and private interests in ways which strengthen the health of the island’s agricultural economy and improve food security at the same time.
The AIC will offer new ways for businesses and organizations involved in agricultural value chains to share facilities and support services. Establishing a shared food processing, packaging and storage facility available to local producers will make value chains more efficient and represents a substantial step towards improving our local agricultural economy.
There are 4 key objectives of the AIC:
Increase value-added processing capacity on Hawaiʻi Island, supporting a network of certified kitchens and food hubs and establishing a shared, multi-purpose facility for high cost food processing equipment;
Explore and support new models of aggregation, processing and distribution, particularly from small farms, regularly utilizing online information and establishing partnerships around food standards;
Increase support and efficiency of food relief transportation and distribution, identifying strategic opportunities for shared for-profit and non-profit use of equipment and facilities; and
Increase incentives and mechanisms for collaboration among all stakeholders in the island’s agriculture cluster.
The Hāmākua Institute supports the AIC with analysis, planning and facilitation support, helping to bring together the groups and interests necessary to enable the project to serve as an effective catalyst for agricultural development and food security.