Kamehameha Schools invests $10 million in food systems fund

  • Kamehameha Schools photo Kyla Datta, president of Hawaii ‘Ulu Cooperative and owner of Mana ‘Ulu, an ‘ulu farm in Umauma, stands next to one of his trees.

Kamehameha Schools has created a new $10 million food systems fund, from which the first $300,000 is being invested in the Hawaii ‘Ulu Cooperative to scale up its business operations.

According to a written statement, the fund was created in an effort to invest in local businesses and strengthen the economic resiliency of Hawaii.

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“The fund looks to invest in compelling businesses — and their leaders — who will accelerate the revitalization and diversification of food systems, including our own KS portfolio of ‘aina and tenants,” KS Community and ‘Aina Resiliency Vice President Ka‘eo Duarte said. “Creation of this fund enables KS to more directly invest in enterprises that aim to provide healthy and accessible food to feed Hawaii and beyond, as part of a resilient economy with new jobs and career pathways.”

The food systems fund is focused on investments within Hawaii to support food production, distribution and aggregation, processing, purchasing, consumption, and solving food waste challenges. The fund targets both financial returns on investment as well as broader impacts to local jobs and career pathways, and economic multiplier effects on community.

The fund’s first investee, the Hawaii ‘Ulu Cooperative, is a farmer-owned business with over 100 member farms on Hawaii Island, Maui and Oahu. The cooperative is working to revitalize ‘ulu or breadfruit as a viable crop and dietary staple by empowering farmers as change-makers in Hawaii’s food systems. Other crops such as taro, pumpkin and sweet potatoes also are aggregated and processed by the co-op.

“Kamehameha Schools’ investment is extraordinarily catalytic to the entire food chain,” said Kyle Datta, Hawaii ‘Ulu Cooperative president and owner of Mana ‘Ulu, an ‘ulu farm on KS agricultural land in Umauma.

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Datta said Kamehameha Schools’ investment helps to leverage financial support from other funders and allows the co-op to finish manufacturing expansion plans and invest in personnel for processing and statewide marketing.

Kamehameha Schools’ 181,000-plus acres of agricultural land across Hawaii produces nearly 19 million pounds of food annually. Farmers on KS land grow a variety of vegetables, orchards, and specialty crops and raise livestock.

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