Hawaii Ulu Cooperative works to increase opportunities for farmers

June 04, 2024

Hawaii Ulu Cooperative works to increase opportunities for farmers

The Hawaii Ulu Cooperative was established in 2016, created by nine Hawaii Island farmers in an effort to “address our shared need for market development and value-added processing,” as CEO Dana Shapiro tells it.

“We all passionately believed in ulu as a major part of Hawaii’s solution to food insecurity and climate resilience, but as farmers we didn’t have the capacity to build a viable value chain individually on our own,” said Shapiro, who was among the founders. “The cooperative model provides a vehicle for us to work together, pool our resources, and achieve more than the sum of our parts.”

The farmer-owned co-op has grown to more than 160 farmers across four islands.

Co-op farmers grow crops that include kalo and uala in addition to ulu, and also create food products that utilize the crops — an ulu hummus and an ulu chocolate mousse, for example, are two products currently available on its website. Their items are sold direct-to-consumer online and at retailers throughout the state.

Hawaii Ulu Cooperative
Hawaii Ulu Cooperative sells recipe-ready ulu and other crops, as well as value-added products.

Through the co-op, farmer-owners have access to support and resources, including two aggregation and manufacturing facilities, where Shapiro said farmers can “conveniently drop off fresh fruit and rely on it being processed and distributed to the local community while they receive a fair and stable price for their crop.”

As a Cohort 9 business, Shapiro said Hawaii Ulu Cooperative is looking to create “strategic partnerships” to expand its network across various sectors and increase market opportunities for farmers. The organization is also aiming to bolster its sales and marketing operations.

In the next year, Shapiro said she is seeking “clarity on our product market fit.” To that end, the organization will work to position its products to “meet the needs and demands of target customer groups — which include institutions, manufacturers, foodservice, distributors, grocers, and food hubs.” She said she also would like to “have made some headway” in creating partnerships across those target customer segments.

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PBN is partnering with Mana Up to announce the 10 newest entrepreneurs joining Cohort 9 of its product business accelerator program, with profiles on each company slated to roll out one at a time through June 4. Stay tuned to pacificbusinessnews.com, and check out the June 7 print edition for the full roundup.