Food Systems Cohort

Hawaiʻi Investment Ready Announces New Food Systems Accelerator Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — Honolulu, Hawaiʻi (February 2022) — Hawaiʻi Investment Ready, a local impact investing nonprofit, today announced the launch of its new Hawaiʻi Food Systems Accelerator program. Since its founding in 2013, Hawaiʻi Investment Ready (HIR) has graduated over 50 enterprises (nonprofits and mission-driven businesses) across four cohorts through its social enterprise accelerator. The new Food Systems Accelerator represents HIR’s evolution to better target systems-level challenges and opportunities. In particular, food supply chain vulnerabilities daylighted by the global COVID-19 pandemic have elevated an urgency to invest in the State’s goal to double local food production6

“COVID changed the landscape and made me rethink how we can best serve Hawaiʻi in its urgent and necessary economic transformation,” said Keoni Lee, Hawaii Investment Ready CEO. “Typically, accelerators aim to strengthen and scale the individual enterprises that participate in their programs, but this new approach takes it a step further to strengthen and resource the system as a whole.”

The HIR Hawaiʻi Food Systems Accelerator comprises two complementary cohorts – the Enterprise Cohort and the Funder Cohort. The cohorts represent high-potential innovators across the food system value chain and funders from government, philanthropic, and private sectors who share a common objective of a viable and resilient local food system. The intention of bringing these groups together is to build relationships and increase collective capacity to seed possibilities for deeper systems-level collaboration and problem-solving.

“As Hawai’i becomes more aware of the need to put a stake in the ground of food security, working with Hawaii Investment Ready and our food colleagues is essential and exciting,” said Patti Chang, CEO and co-founder of Feed The Hunger Fund. “Our participation in the accelerator will provide limitless opportunities as we are poised for a new level of growth.”

“Kamehameha Schools believes in partners like HIR and ʻōiwi leaders like Keoni and Lisa who put their name and careers on the line for the sake of a better Hawaiʻi,” said Lauren Nahme, VP Strategy & Innovation for Kamehameha Schools. “The vision to align the accelerator to food systems is courageous and critical. We are excited to support this effort in the seemingly impossible food space that requires our collective ears, brains, advocacy, and capital. Pūpūkahi i holomua.”

“The global impact investing community has embraced solving for food systems as critical to the sustainability and health of people and planet,” said Lisa Kleissner, co-founder and board chair of HIR and KL Felicitas Foundation. “HIR’s system-level approach is a template how to build equity and resilience not only into regional food systems, but also into areas of basic community needs, such as housing, regenerative tourism, and circular economy waste management.”

The Food Systems Accelerator starts later this month and will culminate with a public pitch event this fall. 

Click here to access and download images for media use

HIR Food Systems Enterprise Cohort:

  • Farm Link Hawaiʻi – Oʻahu
  • Feed The Hunger Fund – Statewide
  • Hawaiʻi Food Hub Hui – Statewide
  • Hawaiʻi Good Food Alliance – Statewide
  • Hui Mālama i ke Ala Uliuli – Hawaiʻi
  • Iwikua – Kauaʻi
  • Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation – Oʻahu
  • Miko Foods – Hawaiʻi
  • Pacific Gateway Center – Oʻahu
  • Piko Provisions- Oʻahu
  • Intrapreneur Participant: Mahi Pono – Maui

HIR Food Systems Funder Cohort:

Lia Sheehan, Atherton Family Foundation

Dexter Kishida, City & County of Honolulu, OER

Jason Okuhama, Commercial & Business Lending

Sarah Freeman, County of Hawaiʻi R&D

Danya Hakeem, Elemental Excelerator

Eric Bowman, Feed the Hunger Fund

Aaron Ellis, Feed the Hunger Fund

Janel Yamamoto, GoFarm Hawaiʻi

Daisy Chung, Hawaiʻi Community Foundation

Nicole Milne, Hawaiʻi Good Food Fund

Usha Kilpatrick, The Healy Foundation

Jessica Scheeter, Johnson Ohana Foundation (JOF)

Lisa Kimura, Kaiser Permanente

Kim Johnson, JOF / Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation

Pia Chock, Kamehameha Schools

Bethany Hull, Kamehameha Schools

Ken Tyson, Kamehameha Schools

Natalie McKinney, Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation

Abigail Perrin, Nuestro Futuro Foundation

Mary Spadaro, Slow Money Hawaiʻi

Aileen Suzara, Stupski Foundation

Greg Gaug, Ulupono Initiative

Denise Salmeron, USDA Rural Development

Marisa Hayase, The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation

About Hawaiʻi Investment Ready (HIR) 

Since its founding in 2013, HIR has primarily been known as an accelerator program capacity-building Hawaiʻi enterprises and funders. HIR has graduated 50+ impact enterprises (nonprofits and mission-driven businesses) across 4 cohorts. As part of its broader mission to rebuild an economy that serves all of Hawaiʻi, the impact investing nonprofit accelerates the coordination and collaboration of capital to seed and scale solutions for social, environmental, and financial wellbeing. 

To learn more about Hawaiʻi Investment Ready, click here.


Chloe Hartwell,

HIR Food Cohort Zoom
HIR Food Enterprises 2
hir triangle aqua


Interested in applying for a future cohort? Cohort 6 will be by invitation only, by referral, and will focus on Food Systems Infrastructure. The program will begin in 2024. 

Interested in learning more about HIR’s work to invest in a resilient future for all Hawaiʻi? Sign up for our newsletter.

Scroll to Top