Early this morning (2 a.m., Hawaiʻi time), as I scrolled through Fast Companyʻs 2023 list of the Worldʻs Most Innovative Companies and, in the glaring light of my iPhone, found Maui Nui counted among them, the first thought that took shape in my mind as I sat there in the dark was of a Hawaiian monarch.
And not the monarch involved in the introduction of Axis deer to Hawaiʻi, but his uncle and predecessor, Liholiho, or King Kamehameha II, who, when traveling with his wife on the monarchyʻs first trip to Europe in 1824, uttered the most beautiful response to compliments on his wisdom.“Na wai hoʻi ka ʻole o ke akamai,” he infamously replied, “he alahele i maʻa i ka hele ʻia e oʻu mau mākua.” Who would not be wise on a path already well-worn by his ancestors? Both at once, Liholiho honored the intelligence of the people that came before him and also his own unique place in a continuum of brilliance.
As I excitedly and so gratefully write about this honor of having our ʻohana and team recognized as one of Fast Companyʻs top 10 Most Innovative Companies in the agricultural sector, I am also holding the stories of our kūpuna, our ancestors, with me...
...kūpuna who cultivated millennia of agricultural innovations, from some of the most expansive pre-historic agricultural features in the world, to incredible aquaculture evidenced in over 450 known loko iʻa that anciently encircled our many estuaries. Brilliance! in their vast kalo terraces, in the myriad of their food plant cultivars, in their planting and fishing - all timed by the cycles of the moon.
Food technologies, whether gentle or extractive, whether time-tested or newfangled, will always be an integral piece of all of our stories, of the human story. My great hope is that the ways in which we innovate at Maui Nui - to create nutrient-dense food for our communities and to solve for the unique challenges of our time - will be reflective of the kinds of innovations that have existed in Hawaiʻi for so long, innovations that were able to feed a large population base whilst staying in balance with the natural world.
Mahalo ā nui to Fast Company for this incredible honor, an honor that belongs to our hardworking team, absolutely, and also to our communities, to our ʻohana of customers that have supported this work for so long, and to our kūpuna who have long-traversed these paths of brilliance.
Photo by Pekuna Hong.