Hawaiian Crown’s Craig Bowden, Lisa Yamaguchi Bowden,
and Tom Menezes (left to right) provide opportunities for local growers to produce
their sweet pineapple.
last of the state’s pineapple canneries closed in 2007. But the reasons for Big
Pine’s decline were economic, not agricultural; the Islands’ soils and climate
are ideal for the fruit. Pineapple is still a very viable crop; all that’s
required is a different economic model…and a different pineapple. Two
CTAHR-associated pineapple businesses thriving under these new conditions are
Haliimaile Pineapple Company and Hawaiian Crown—the former is a client of the
college’s Agribusiness Incubator, which advised them as to their business plan and
start-up, while the latter is owned and operated by two CTAHR alumni. At the
same time, a new generation of pineapple research has implications beyond the
big plantations were mainly involved in canning, which requires a more acid pineapple.
But today’s local growers primarily capture the fresh market, which prizes a
much sweeter fruit. Haliimaile delivers with its Maui Gold® supersweet
pineapple, a variant of which was originally discovered by the CTAHR-affiliated
Pineapple Research Institute in the 1970s. The company emphasizes ripeness and
freshness, delivering 80% of the weekly harvest to local markets within three
days. Haliimaile has also diversified their customer base, partnering with Maui’s
Winery at Ulupalakua
Ranch for pineapple wine, Haliimaile Distilling Company for Pau Vodka, and the
Culinary Academy at UH Maui College for roasted pineapple jam.
Haliimaile’s Darren Strand and Roderigo “Rudy” Balala make
sure their sweet pineapple reaches customers at the peak of ripeness..
Crown founders and former CTAHRites Craig Bowden, Lisa Yamaguchi Bowden, and
Tom Menezes offer their own exclusive supersweet variety, Sweet GoldTM. The
company not only has its own farms; it partners with other family farms on O‘ahu,
Kaua‘i, and the Big Island, providing an alternative to plantation-scale
production that creates an opportunity for local growers. Hawaiian Crown has
also moved into value-added and diversified agriculture products, producing
chocolate from its certified organic cacao orchards and Hawaiian CrownTM products
from partner farms growing coffee, macadamia nuts, banana, and coconuts.
is all the exciting news in pineapple in marketing and processing. Though the
Institute no longer exists, important pineapple research continues at the
Plant and Soil Sciences (TPSS) researchers Nancy Jung Chen and Robert Paull
were part of the international team—led by TPSS graduate Ray Ming—that recently
sequenced the genes in the pineapple genome. This work provides an important
step towards understanding what makes pineapple able to thrive in arid
conditions where few other crops can survive, and how this knowledge can be
used for other crops in drought-stricken areas.