Local farming company Mahi Pono has donated $10,000 to the University of Hawai‘i Maui College’s Maui Food Innovation Center (MFIC). The donation will be used to create the Mahi Pono Food Innovator Award—two $5,000 scholarships that will be awarded to selected students of MFIC’s Maui Food Industry X-celerator Program (MFIX) to support the growth of their food businesses and professional development as local food innovators.
“Food security on Maui is the goal of all of our diversified agriculture operations; but local farming is only part of the equation. If we want to realize a secure future for Maui we must also equip the next generation of local food innovators,” said Shan Tsutsui, chief operating officer of Mahi Pono. “The MFIC is leading the charge with this next generation, so we are honored to support this program that will help students bring value to their communities and the island of Maui through food innovation.”
MFIC is Hawai‘i’s first in-state business incubator which serves to foster and accelerate the growth and education of agribusinesses and food entrepreneurs, and aims to build an economically diverse and sustainable Maui by supporting the value-added food industry.
“Since the pandemic, the college has been reimagining what it will be in service to the Maui Nui community. The food innovation center provides an opportunity for the college to work with farmers to create value-added products and develop new economic opportunities for Maui,” said Dr. Lui Hokoana, chancellor of UH Maui College. “The Mahi Pono support will create opportunities for individuals to develop new products for the Maui market. We are grateful to Mahi Pono for having the foresight to support this important college endeavor on behalf of the Maui Nui community.”
The purpose of the Mahi Pono Food Innovator Award will be to support the development of food innovators on Maui who not only create innovative, value-added food products, but who can also successfully brand and market their food products. The award will provide selected MFIX students with the unique opportunity to expand their business goals and profitability through the development of marketing strategies, and may be used for fees associated with logo, branding and website development; including packaging selection, labeling and consultation services through MFIC.
“Access to capital is a major barrier for food entrepreneurs looking to launch new and value-added food products into the marketplace,” said Chris Speere, coordinator of the Maui Food Innovation Center. “The financial gift from Mahi Pono is a meaningful step in supporting MFIC students toward educational and business success. Together as ‘good neighbors’ we envision continued collaboration between Mahi Pono, UH Maui College and MFIC that serves to better and strengthen all aspects of Maui’s ag-related communities.”
Mahi Pono’s $10,000 donation was presented to UH Maui College’s MFIC during a ceremony celebrating the groundbreaking of the Chefs’ Corner project—Mahi Pono’s latest innovation in local agriculture. A collaboration with Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival (HFWF), the Chefs’ Corner consists of five quarter-acre farm plots that provide five HFWF chefs an opportunity to personally curate and steward what is grown and harvested for their restaurants.
Mahi Pono is a local Maui farming company that owns and operates approximately 41,000 acres of agricultural land in Central Maui. It was created in 2018 in a joint venture of Pomona Farming LLC, a California-based agricultural group, and the Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP Investments), one of Canada’s largest pension investment managers. Mahi Pono is committed to practicing sustainable agriculture, to growing food for local consumption, to the responsible use of natural resources, and to providing high quality agricultural employment.
Maui Pesto was created by Maui high school students who worked with the Maui Food Innovation Center to develop the product as well as design their own labels for marketing the product. (Photo by Marc Antosch)
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The University of Hawai‘i Foundation, a nonprofit organization, raises private funds to support the University of Hawai‘i System. The mission of the University of Hawai‘i Foundation is to unite donors’ passions with the University of Hawai‘i’s aspirations by raising philanthropic support and managing private investments to benefit UH, the people of Hawai‘i and our future generations. uhfoundation.org