It has been approximately five years since many of us got together for the Sectors Summit
convened by the Chamber of Commerce Hawai‘i.
Hawai‘i County chose agriculture as the sector it wanted to focus on, a smart choice given the
geography, history, current activities and potential for future growth on this island.
Much has happened since then, including a pandemic that generated renewed focus on the
importance of a resilient local food system. That interest in agriculture has led to strong
enrollment in our Agriculture program: this fall our first-year cohort is at maximum capacity of 16
students, and we have a total of 28 Agriculture majors.
In addition to teaching the principles of agriculture, Hawai‘i CC is also committed to teaching
entrepreneurship and high-tech skills to students in our Agriculture and Tropical Forest
Ecosystem and Agroforestry Management programs. This is evidenced by two National Science
Foundation grants we have received and are implementing, one focused on Controlled
Environment Agriculture and the other on using Unmanned Aerial Systems and Geographic
Hawai‘i Community College is pursuing other ways to support the local agriculture sector, too,
as a member of a consortium that has applied for a major grant through the Build Back Better
Regional Challenge. The consortium, led by Hawai‘i County, was awarded $500,000 in Phase I
of the program last year, is one of 60 finalists nationwide, and could potentially get up to $100
million in Phase II.
Through the consortium, Hawai‘i CC is seeking to work with our partners at the University of
Hawai‘i at Hilo and the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa — plus many amazing
agriculture-focused organizations on Hawai’i Island — to grow and strengthen the agricultural
cluster through innovative collaboration.
Even the process of applying for this grant has been important as it has brought together so
many partners, and I’m glad that Hawai‘i CC has had a seat at the table.
There are other successes that have happened along the way as well, such as Hawai‘i Island
Agriculture Partnership and Hawai‘i Island Food Alliance undertaking a collective impact
approach to grow the agriculture sector and producing the Hawai‘i Island Agriculture and Food
System Study in partnership with the Hāmākua Institute.
In addition, the Food Basket took a major step recently toward developing an agriculture
There is a lot of energy around agriculture right now on Hawai’i Island. Let’s keep the
Chancellor Rachel Solemsaas