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Two companies that are heavily investing in Hawaii’s agricultural future

On Lanai, a sliver of long-abandoned farmland is being revamped. In six high-tech greenhouses, a futuristic vision of food-growing is underway; one in which nutrient density and flavor are automated. The hydroponic tomatoes and leafy greens grown here by Sensei Ag don’t even depend on soil anymore.

The ag-tech company founded by Larry Ellison, the Oracle founder who owns nearly all of Lanai’s acreage, and Dr. David Agus, a physician and medical researcher, is pioneering tools to produce affordable food in places like Lanai that lack traditional farming essentials like water and fertile soil.

Sensei Farms Lanai, a two-acre indoor farming pilot project by Larry Ellison’s Sensei Ag, produced 35,000 pounds of produce in less than three months last year. In doing so, the company is redeploying a scrap of neglected farmland into active agriculture in an attempt to buck an unsettling trend: Hawaii imports more than 85% of its food.

“When you bring up Hawaii to anyone anywhere on earth, what they think of is paradise on earth,” Vincent Mina, president of the Hawaii Farmers Union United, told “But what paradise do you know of that brings in 85% of its food?”

Agribusiness Development Corp
Re-fashioning former sugar and pineapple plantations into viable food farms is what the Hawaii Agribusiness Development Corp. was designed to do. However, a scathing state audit in January said that the 25-year-old state agency has so far failed its mission because “the economic void created when plantations ceased production remains mostly unfilled.”

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