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Pacific Biodiesel welcomes community leaders, local students for blessing of its 1st sunflower field on Kauai

Pacific Biodiesel Founders Bob and Kelly King, center, during the blessing ceremony on Earth Day (Photo: Pacific Biodiesel)

In commemoration of Earth Day, Pacific Biodiesel Founders Bob and Kelly King welcomed community leaders and local students on a tour of the company’s new crushing mill and expanded agriculture operations, followed by a blessing of its first sunflower field on Kauai April 22.


Invited guests included community and business leaders, agriculture and food-security organizations, biodiesel customers Hawaiian Electric and Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, representatives from Kauai County Council, and landowners Gay & Robinson Inc.

 

Also, Kauai High School STEM and Natural Resources students and their teachers attended to learn about the company’s renewable fuel and regenerative-agriculture model and later shared their input for planning future educational farm tours.


Pacific Biodiesel announced earlier this year its expansion of agriculture operations to Kauai as part of a federally funded project to develop a model for regenerative agriculture-based biofuel produced in Hawaii from multiple locally grown oilseed cover crops.

 

The company’s farming will initially be done on Gay & Robinson land, utilizing new and existing fields for oilseed cover crops in rotation with other food and fuel crops.

 

The project’s model will include expanded production of culinary oils and other value-added food products, meal for animal feed, biodiesel, and coproducts from biodiesel production such as glycerin and potassium salt-cake, which can be used as nonpetroleum fertilizer for local agriculture.

 

The gathering began with a tour of Pacific Biodiesel’s new crushing mill at Gay & Robinson’s property in Kaumakani.

 

Guests sampled the company’s premium culinary oils produced from local agriculture including sunflowers from the Kings’ farm on Maui.

 

Participants also had an opportunity to learn about the new expeller press and see the trio of recently installed large-capacity grain silos where harvested seed will be stored until it is processed in the crushing mill.


Guests were then transported by school bus to the farm site where they participated in a blessing by Kumu Troy Hinano Lazaro along with members of his award-winning Hālau Ka Pa Hula O Hinano.


Afterwards, Pacific Biodiesel’s agriculture-operations team began planting its first 100-acre sunflower field.


Pacific Biodiesel is farming the drought-tolerant sunflowers with no pesticides or herbicides and utilizing biodiesel-powered farm equipment as well as an efficient pivot irrigation system.

 

The company expects the first sunflower blooms in July and harvesting of the field by late summer.


“At its core, this project supports Hawaii’s circular economy, using local resources and creating local jobs to produce products for our local community while urgently fighting the effects of climate change,” said Bob King, founder and president of Pacific Biodiesel.


Kelly King, who began researching and envisioning the biofuel-crop project 20 years ago, said it was literally a dream come true.

 

“I didn’t know if it would happen in my active time with our company,” she recalled, “but it is amazing to see my vision of sunflowers to cooking oil to biodiesel come to fruition. I guess I told enough people that when the first bloom happened on Maui, folks were calling it ‘Kelly’s field of dreams!’”


She added that their mission statement has always focused on “community-based,” the basis for the circular economy, which brings maximum benefits to the local community.


This Earth Day event sets the stage for more educational farm tours Pacific Biodiesel expects to begin hosting on Kauai when its sunflower fields are in bloom.


“As we’ve seen again and again at our farm on Maui, our sunflowers are a major attraction for visitors and locals alike,” King said. “We’ve hosted dozens of farm tours for customer teams, media, school groups and special events for the community. For example, our friends, multiplatinum music producer Kerry Brown and his Licorice Pizza Records team, are producing the third annual Sunflower Farm Music Festival at our Maui farm on Saturday, May 4. This popular event features farm tours throughout the day, a farmers market with local produce and products, and a lineup of incredible musicians—all to raise funds for Maui nonprofits that support food security on our island.”

 

Founded on Maui in 1995, Pacific Biodiesel annually produces nearly 6 million gallons of premium distilled biodiesel at its refinery on Hawaii Island.

 

The biodiesel is currently produced primarily from used cooking oil and grease-trap residue recycled from restaurants and food-service facilities statewide.

 

Since 2017, the Kings, with their company Maiden Hawaii Naturals LLC, have been farming sunflowers and other oilseed cover crops as a feedstock for local biodiesel production and for the local production of culinary oils and animal feed.

 

The community-scale production currently centers on sunflower oil from crops farmed on Maui and macadamia oil from waste culls sourced on Hawaii Island.


Pacific Biodiesel is headquartered on Maui with nearly 100 employees statewide, including 50 currently working at its biodiesel refinery on Hawaii Island.

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