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Got milk? Drink up, Kauai

Ulupono Initiative is investing $17.5 million to form Hawaii Dairy Farms, a grass-fed dairy that will be located on Kauai.

The investment is part of Ulupono Initiative’s mission to increase local food production.

“Following several years of studying the benefits of the grass-fed model to offset the volatile cost of imported feed, we believe that forming Hawaii Dairy Farms is an important step toward revitalizing our local dairy industry,” said Kyle Datta, general partner of Ulupono Initiative. “This is integral to our mission to increase affordable and sustainable local food production. We believe this dairy’s success could lead to additional grass-fed dairies statewide.”

Hawaii Dairy Farms will be based on the New Zealand pastoral dairy model, which uses grass as the primary feed source. It will bring together suppliers  to create an operation that will infuse more local, fresh milk into Hawaii’s dairy supply, states the announcement from Ulupono Iniative.

Building permit applications have been filed for the dairy farms, which will be in the Mahaulepu area of Kauai on a 582-acre pasture parcel of Important Agricultural Land leased from the Grove Farm Co.

Locally-produced milk is less than 9 percent of the entire Hawaii market, the remainder being imported from the continental United States.

Hawaii Dairy Farms’ operations will more than double local milk production, contributing an additional 11 percent to the statewide milk market.

Drawing on proven, world-class dairy operation methods, the Hawaii Dairy Farms’ milk will be both high quality and affordable.

Ulupono Initiative hopes to revitalize the dairy sector in Hawaii, where local dairies produced all of the state’s milk until 1984. It hopes to accomplish this by drawing upon and adapting best practices from farm systems in both New Zealand and the United States.

Overall design and construction is being done in partnership with Dairy SolutioNZ, Ltd., a consortium of New Zealand’s top dairy industry companies and local business partners.

Construction is anticipated to start next year.

Jim Garmatz, a dairyman with more than 25 years experience, will manage the dairy operations.

Ulupono Initiative is a for-profit impact investment firm that strives to improve the quality of life for the people of Hawaii by working toward solutions which create more locally-grown food, increase clean renewable energy production and reduce waste.

• Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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