county of hawaii: AGRICULTURE


Meeting the Challenge

The Hilo Irradiator

Food Irradiation


Breaking Hawaii's Quarantine Barrier

Hawaii Agricultural Exports & Links

Food Irraditaion Q & A

Gamma Sterilization

Food Safety Commentary

Perspectives: Nutrition and Health


Post Harvest Treatment
The County of Hawaii invites you to explore a wealth of information about the development of a post-harvest irradiation facility in Hilo, Hawaii. The plant, to be built by Isomedix, Inc., will provide commodity disinfestation treatment of Hawaii-grown tropical fruit and other produce for export to U.S. markets.

The topical index to some 75 links addresses many questions and concerns about the safety and wholesome-ness of irradiated foods, the operation and regulation of the gamma sterilization industry, and the importance of post-harvest treatment for the growth of diversified agriculture throughout Hawaii.


Agriculture in Hawaii is blessed by a year-round growing climate, plentiful rainfall, fertile soils and a heartfelt tradition of aloha aina-love of the land. Modern-day farming in paradise, however, is a challenging enterprise.

Hawaii's geographical isolation - 2,500 miles distant from the U.S. mainland and over 3,000 from Asia-is a natural barrier for island farmers in a global economy. For over a century, Hawaii's signature crops, sugar and pineapple, met that challenge in American and world markets. Then, slowly and agonizingly, Hawaii's plantation industries succumbed to international competition and changing times.

Over the span of several decades, a succession of once thriving sugar and pineapple plantations closed. Only a few years ago, in the historic sugar towns of Honokaa and Pahala on the Big Island, people wept as convoys of lei-draped cane haul trucks blasted their horns in salute to the final harvests of "King Cane."

Fortunately, a new era of diversified agriculture is well underway in Hawaii. As new farmland and infrastructure became available, local family farmers have seized opportunities to grow and market a multitude of new crops.

The forces driving Hawaii agriculture today are diversification, market expansion and, above all, quality. Superb yields of ginger root, prized throughout mainland markets, are grown in Hilo's rain-soaked former sugar lands. Coffee growing, once confined to the Kona district, now flourishes throughout the islands as new, estate-grown varieties are harvested. Fresh milk from Big Island dairies is shipped to Guam. Some Big Island banana producers are growing dessert variety "apple" (Brazilian) bananas to take aim at mainland niche markets.

Today, Hawaii growers cultivate a tropical bouquet of orchid varieties, heliconia, bird of paradise, ginger, roses and protea for the export cut flower market. Floriculture, including foliage and nursery products-palms, dracaena, potted plants, bamboo and bonsai-is now the largest sector of Big Island agriculture.

Nowadays, island farmers use Hawaii's many biotic climates to grow world-class specialty crops. As they have positioned island agriculture to meet the test of changing times, the

Vast tracts of farmland in the Kau, North Hilo and Hamakua districts of the Big Island are available for planting high yield orchard crops. Some analysts estimate that exotic tropical fruits may become a $300 million industry in Hawaii.

Not only fortunes, but the future of Hawaii's agricultural lands are at stake here.

Historically, farmland in Hawaii has had to compete with development of housing tracts for a growing population, hotels and resorts for Hawaii's visitor industry, and demands for residential and commercial water use. The preservation of green space, the future of rural traditions and local culture, and the very integrity of Hawaii's reputation as a tropical paradise depend on the sustainability of Hawaii's ranching, dairy, floriculture, aquaculture and tropical fruit industries.