HPU receives $1 Million Investment from Ulupono Initiative

May 13, 2014

Feed mill
This rendering shows the proposed feed mill HPU plans to build in Hilo to address food security in the Islands.

HONOLULU — Hawai‘i Pacific University (HPU) and Ulupono Initiative announced today a partnership for the establishment of a state-of-the-art facility which aims to tackle Hawai‘i’s vital issue of local food security.

As part of its mission to increase local food production, Ulupono Initiative is investing $1 million to help finance Hawai‘i Pacific University’s prototype feed mill to be constructed on Hawai‘i Island. The long-planned project is spearheaded by Oceanic Institute, HPU (OI-HPU) – which became a directed research unit of the university in January of this year.

Hawai‘i's isolation as an island state makes food security a priority for its residents. Currently, 85-90 percent of the state’s food is imported, which makes it particularly vulnerable to natural disasters and global events that disrupt shipping and the food supply. Nearly all of Hawai‘iʻs animal feed is imported because the cost of local inputs is too high. For local animal producers, feed is the single largest operational cost.

 “Hawai‘i’s aquaculture and livestock industry play a critical role in the food security and resilience of our state, but they are threatened by the volatility of feed, fuel and fertilizer,” said Kyle Datta, general partner of Ulupono Initiative.

Through this innovative feed mill project, researchers from Oceanic Institute-HPU will create feed for animals — including cattle, poultry, and moi — and will incorporate byproducts from local industries such as sugarcane, fisheries, papaya and algae, which otherwise go to waste. Once formulated to meet each animal’s specific nutritional needs, the feed will be tested on a scale relevant to Hawai‘i farmers.

"Currently at our OI-HPU Makapu‘u campus, we have the only pilot-scale research feed mill for tropical and subtropical aquaculture in the US and Pacific-Island region. This partnership with Ulupono Initiative provides an unparalleled opportunity for us to evaluate locally available waste products and transform them into feed ingredients on a commercial scale to support local food production," said Shaun Moss, OI-HPU executive director.

Ulupono Initiative’s investment funds the installation of the necessary equipment to automate the plant, making it more productive, efficient and economically viable, which, if successful, would catalyze development of commercial feed mills in Hawai‘i. The long-run competitiveness of Hawai‘i-based beef, dairy, poultry, fish, and hogs are dependent on local feed availability.

“Feed represents 70 to 80 percent of the costs of raising an animal, and feed prices have nearly doubled since 2009, forcing many Hawai‘i producers to cease operations,” said Datta. “By investing in this feed mill, which is capable of supporting pre-commercial feed trials, Ulupono seeks to help lower feed costs with a locally produced alternative to imported feed that will improve the financial viability for Hawai‘i’s aquaculture and livestock producers.”

The feed mill is also supported by the USDA, the Hawai‘i State Departments of Agriculture and Land and Natural Resource, and private donors.