New innovation center aims to grow Hawaii’s agricultural industry

Apr 29, 2024

The Wahiawa Value-Added Product Development Center (WVAPDC) hosted a blessing ceremony in commemoration of its April opening. The cutting-edge, 33,000-square-foot establishment is geared towards nurturing Hawaii's agricultural sector, fostering education, and cultivating a thriving value-added economy for the future. 

Value-added products are made when the creator takes raw agricultural products and turns them into a desirable and longer-lasting product, like a dressing, sauce, jam or jerky. 

More than 300 guests from multiple state and private entities, along with 17 alumni of the Leeward Community College’s ‘Āina to Mākeke program, attended the gathering.

“Guests were able to mingle with local entrepreneurs that completed our ‘Āina to Mākeke program, sharing wonderful examples of value-added products,” said Leeward Community College Chancellor Carlos Peñaloza. “Engaging with the entrepreneurs was the highlight, followed by escorted tours of the facility, where equipment like Hawaii’s only high-pressure processing machine and other automation and mass production equipment and industrial kitchens were showcased.”

The WVAPDC is an exciting collaborative initiative by Leeward Community College and the State of Hawaii in support of growing and strengthening the state’s agricultural industry and economy. With a focus on education, infrastructure and consultation, the WVAPDC provides assistance to local farmers and entrepreneurs to enhance food security and boost economic growth by converting off-grade crops into high-value products. The center will offer premier educational programs designed to empower students and community members while nurturing Hawaii’s entrepreneurial ecosystem for generations to come. It also aims to create more opportunities for local farmers and producers by nurturing connections with value-added producers. Local entrepreneurs will have access to the tools they need to thrive, production kitchens, assistance with product and process development and small business resources.

“A facility of this size and scope is unprecedented for Hawaii and will be a game changer for ramping up the value-added movement statewide, which will increase food security and economic growth,” Peñaloza said.

Peñaloza explained that the agriculture sector in Hawaii is facing financial challenges in part because of an aging workforce and global competition, which results in many crops being wasted or underutilized despite a demand for Hawaii-made products. State Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz has been a long champion of the Food and Product Innovation Network, aimed at revitalizing the agriculture industry by supporting small business and promoting value-added products. Now that the WVAPDC is open, it will play a key role in this mission to equip entrepreneurs to serve as leaders in statewide food and product innovation as Hawaii’s economy strengthens and its products become available in the global marketplace.

“By working with K-12 teachers and students; existing college faculty and students; and businesses, we create a platform where awareness, skills and resources will build this economy,” Peñaloza added. “We are all consumers of value-added products, and what’s more, Hawaii is known for many value-added products — lilikoi butter and ulu hummus come to mind — but our capacity to grow these markets has been limited.

Read more about the Wahiawa Value-Added Product Development Center >>