(Editor’s note: September 2013—The Kulanui program has ended and products are available until supplies last)
Local farms have to pay to get rid of waste products like unsellable vegetables and fruits. The same is true for local companies like Aloha Tofu Factory that has to dispose of okara, a waste product in the tofu manufacturing process.
Enter Kulanui, a brand of products developed by the University of Hawaiʻi that gives students an opportunity to do actual product development, from concept to store shelf.
“The students get a chance to research and develop new products, creating value added products with the waste products,” said Kulanui Project Manager Jennifer Shido. “Which they get from the farmers.”
Or companies like Aloha Tofu. Students came up with the idea and recipe to turn okara, into short bread cookies that are now sold in UH campus bookstores and Rainbowtiques across the state, a process that took over year and a half.
“It takes a lot of time,” said Jordon Oshiro, who is one of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa students who developed the okara short bread cookies. “It takes a lot of just playing around and really having critical thinking skills.”
Students in the food science program of the UH Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources started helping local farmers in the 1990s with their unsellable fruits and vegetables, also known as culls and seconds.
“You give students the opportunity to work on these projects and we ask them to come up with ideas on how to use the culls and seconds,” said Wayne Iwaoka, UH Mānoa food science professor from the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.
Kulanui took the effort to the next level by taking on the manufacturing, branding and marketing. The first Kulanui product was launched in 2008 with new products hitting stores every one to two years.
“The overall goal is to showcase the university as a whole, show what the students can do here,” said Shido.
“It provides a tremendous opportunity for students to get a sense of how products are developed,” said Iwaoka.
“As opposed to lab where they just tell you this what you do and this is the outcome that you should have,” agreed Oshiro. “This allows us to do real science, real world experience.”
Other Kulanui products include papaya dressings, sauces and chutney, developed at UH Mānoa, and lip and healing balms created at UH Hilo from honey and beewax .
Kulanui plans to continue develop more products and hopes to get all ten UH System campuses to participate. The profits are used to pay for the program and fund student-based projects.