Food Powered by ʻĀina

Native Hawaiian self-reliance provides a template for imagining a future of innovative stewardship of our natural resources in part two of Hawai‘i of Tomorrow, a six-part series presented by Hawaiian Electric.
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Illustration: Wooden Wave (Matthew Kawika Ortiz and Roxanne Ortiz)


Umeke Hot

ʻUmeke: Photosynthetic
algaes light night paths.

As the designated konohiki walks upstream from fishpond to farm, his field tablet pings at regular intervals. ‘O‘opu populations in Zone 6, it tells him, have officially tripled since the return of the ahupua‘a’s natural water flows.


Community scientists from seven countries, participating in the university’s prestigious climate resilience fellowship, follow along with mud under their fingernails, eager to learn more from the ecosystem manager.


Kahili Hot

Kāhili: Vertical axis wind
turbines catch the valley breeze without harming birds and pollinators.

He tells them how the sluice gates separating the ‘auwai, arterial valves in the vast circulatory system of agricultural waterways, revolutionized Hawai‘i in the 13th century, an innovation by the chief Mā‘ilikūkahi to cordon waterborne plant diseases and even grow fish within the irrigation system. In 2050, these mākāhā are now solar-automated, he says, and regulate water usage to exactly what each plant needs, no more.


The valley, in turn, bursts with food. Patches of kabocha, sweet potatoes, carrots and lettuce radiate from the banks of the lo‘i kalo. A multicolored canopy of fruit crowns the agroforest, pulling clouds towards the hillside with their leaves and healing abused soil with their nitrogen-fixing roots.


Lupe Hot

Lupe: Solar kites collect and correlate wind, rain, solar, and lunar crop data to inform when and where to plant.

Smart solar panels dotting the variegated fields adjust their opacity along the sun’s path, optimizing shade to what the plants beneath them liked best. Any excess power is sold to the island’s power grid. The extra income is reinvested into crop innovation and productivity.


The same technology panels the facades of the farm’s kauhale—greenhouses that nurture vast solar-powered aquaponic systems of delicate plants and seedlings. Inside, the konohiki observes the farmed fish that enrich the closed water loop within. He nets a 4-pound adult to cook for his visitors, plucks enough green onions and fern shoots for lunch, and gives thanks to his kūpuna.