Innovative approach to providing animal feed in Hawaii

From Pacific Business News

May 13, 2014, 2:46pm HST
eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s Ulupono Initiative invests $1M in Hawaii Pacific University’s feedmill project
Hilo Feedmill Rendering Enlarge Photo
Courtesy Hawaii Pacific University
This rendering shows the proposed feed mill Hawaii Pacific University plans to build in Hilo. Ulupono Initiative, founded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, has donated $1 million toward the project.

Hilo feedmill rendering 304xx1200 800 0 0

Duane Shimogawa
Reporter-
Pacific Business News
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Ulupono Initiative, the Honolulu-based social impact investment firm created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, has given Hawaii Pacific University $1 million as part of a newly formed partnership for the development of a state-of-the-art facility that aimed at helping with the issue of local food security.
As part of its mission to increase local food production, Ulupono Initiative is helping to finance HPU’s prototype feed mill to be built on the Big Island.
The long-planned project is spearheaded by Oceanic Institute-HPU, which became a direct research unit of the state’s largest private university last year.
Hawaii’s isolation makes food security a priority for its residents, since 85-90 percent of the state’s food is imported, making the state vulnerable to natural disasters and global events that disrupt shipping and the food supply, the two private entities said.
Nearly all of Hawaii’s animal feed is imported because the cost of local inputs is too high, and for local animal producers, feed is the single largest operational cost.
“Hawaii’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,” Kyle Datta, general partner of Ulupono Initiative, said in a statement.
Through this 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 Hawaii farmers.

“Currently at our OI-HPU Makapuu campus, we have the only pilot-scale research feed mill for tropical and subtropical aquaculture in the US and Pacific-Island region,” Shaun Moss, executive director of OI-HPU, said in a statement. “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.”
Ulupono Initiative said that its 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 Hawaii.
The long-run competitiveness of Hawaii-based beef, dairy, poultry, fish, and hogs are dependent on local feed availability, the firm said.
“Feed represents 70 to 80 percent of the costs of raising an animal, and feed prices have nearly doubled since 2009, forcing many Hawaii 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 Hawaii’s aquaculture and livestock producers.”
The feed mill is also supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Hawaii Departments of Agriculture and Land and Natural Resources and private donors.