top of page

Hawai'i Island Agriculture System

View a system map of Hawai'i Island's agricultural market ecosystem

View data and graphs providing details of Hawai'i Island's agricultural economy

View a summary of feedback from producers about their challenges and needs

View definitions of system terms and details of referenced agricultural data

System Map

The system map below outlines the key elements and functions of the island's agricultural market ecosystem and how they fit together.


System Data

The following information provides a more detailed understanding of the agricultural economic system on Hawai'i Island.


The 2022 USDA Agriculture Census provides some basic statistics about the island's farmers, ranchers and other producers.

Hawaii County Producers Farms Slide.png


The table of land usage provides a measure of how much land is dedicated to production of each category of crops or commodities on the island. According to the 2022 Ag Census, the 66 largest farms (2% of the total farms) operate 83% of the total agricultural acreage. The total value of the largest categories of agricultural products sold in 2022 are shown below.

Hawaii County Production Slide.png

Jobs and Establishments

The map below identifies the distribution of agricultural jobs and establishments throughout the nine districts of Hawai'i Island in 2022. Establishments refers to physical locations of a farm or business. Thus, large businesses with more than one location on the island will have more than one establishment listed.

Hawaii County Ag Job Map.png

The line graph below lists the number of agricultural establishments in Hawai'i County over the past decade. Overall, the number of establishments declined by 23 over the decade, representing a 0.6% average annual decline rate over the period. Significant losses in establishments resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic can be observed in the sharp declines from 2019 to 2020 levels. Industries most affected by the pandemic declines include Specialty Agriculture (-33 establishments), Nursery & Floriculture (-15), Ag & Food Processing (-15), and Livestock & Dairy (-12).

Hawaii County Ag Estabs 2013-22.png

Source: The Your Economy Time Series (YTS) from the Business Dynamics Research Consortium (BDRC), a project of the University of Wisconsin, Institute for Business and Entrepreneurship.

The line graph below lists the number of agricultural jobs in Hawai'i County over the past decade. Overall, the number of jobs declined by 107 over the decade, representing a 0.3% average annual decline rate over the period. Job losses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic can be observed in the sharp declines from 2019 to 2020 levels. Industries most affected by job losses from the pandemic include Ag & Food Processing (-189 jobs), Ag Supplies & Equipment (-84 jobs) and Nursery & Floriculture (-80 jobs). Over the ten-year period, Fruits, Vegetables and Tree Nuts saw the biggest decline, losing 166 jobs. The biggest gains over the decade were observed in Aquaculture & Fisheries, which added 112 jobs, and Specialty Agriculture, which added 111 jobs over the decade despite experiencing losses in 2020 from the COVID-19 pandemic.


The number of State and Federal Agriculture Department employees is also added to this graph and shows the 45% decline (-60 jobs) in government agricultural workers over the decade. Combined with the declines in Ag Support Services (-19 jobs) and Ag Supplies & Equipment (-68 jobs), this means overall supporting functions for agriculture on the island decreased by 147 jobs or 23% over the last decade.

Hawaii County Ag Jobs 2013-22.png

Source: The Your Economy Time Series (YTS) from the Business Dynamics Research Consortium (BDRC), a project of the University of Wisconsin, Institute for Business and Entrepreneurship.

Position in Statewide Agricultural Economy

The map and information below compares each of the counties in the state in terms of key agricultural economic indicators. The information illustrates Hawai'i County's dominance in the state's agricultural economy, though also highlights the limited presence of state and federal agriculture employees in the County.

Hawaii Statewide Ag Comparison.png

Value Chains

Understanding the value chains of the island's agricultural products from production to consumption helps to identify the factors that determine the prices producers get for their products and where different market opportunities might exist, particularly for more value-add to products that can increase farm profitability. Analyzing vertical linkages amongst value chain functions and horizontal linkages amongst producers can yield potential new opportunities. The following diagram displays each of the value chain functions and segments the farms on the island by income category, displaying the total sales the farms in each income category contributes towards the total value of products sold in 2022. Note that the 90 highest earning farms (2.5% of the total) generate 71% of the total value sold in 2022.

Value Chain Diagram.png

Agri-food Economic Cluster

For Hawai'i Island to improve food security and self-sufficiency, it is important to understand the linkages between the agriculture and food segments of the island economy and treat them as a combined cluster. Even though there are agricultural products that are produced locally but exported off island and there are agricultural products that are not food items, combining these sectors into a single economic cluster enables a more holistic analysis of how to increase local consumption of locally produced food products.

Clustering data in this way overcomes the limitations of standard industry classifications codes contained in the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), by which most economic data is usually categorized. Using NAICS classifications, agriculture is limited to production activities without including other aspects of the sector. Food sectors are buried in more than one category, making them difficult to track. To overcome these limitations, microdata from the Your Economy Time Series Database (YTS) was obtained to enable jobs and establishments data to be clustered in ways that more accurately reflect the island's agricultural value chains. DataAxle is the provider of the Licensed Database used to create the Your Economy Time Series (YTS). This work/research was authorized to use YTS through the Business Dynamics Research Consortium (BDRC) by the University of Wisconsin’s Institute for Business and Entrepreneurship. The contents of the graphs and summaries of this data are solely the responsibility of HIAP and the Hamakua Institute.

The pie charts below demonstrate the comparisons between categorizing jobs by NAICS codes on the left and using clustered data on the right. The combined cluster provides a more useful and accurate understanding of the economic importance of this cluster to the island economy.

Hawaii County Agfood Cluster pie charts.png

Using the YTS database, the performance of the entire agri-food cluster can be evaluated over the last decade, focusing on growth and regional competitiveness. The bubble chart below shows the performance of each sector in the cluster using average annual growth (the X-axis), the concentration of jobs on the island compared to the rest of the state (the Y-axis) and the number of jobs in the sector (the size of the bubble). A Y-value greater than 1.0 means that there is a larger concentration of jobs in that sector in Hawai'i County than there are in other counties within the state.

Hawaii County Agrifood Bubble Chart.png

Source: The Your Economy Time Series (YTS) from the Business Dynamics Research Consortium (BDRC), a project of the University of Wisconsin, Institute for Business and Entrepreneurship.

Challenges and Needs

This section provides a summary of feedback received from farmers, ranchers and other agricultural stakeholders about the challenges they face and the agriculture system's needs for more infrastructure and support.

Priority Challenges

Producers identified their most critical challenges in the 2023 HIAP Forum and in several subsequent meetings, interviews and focus group meetings. Following is a brief summary of the highest priority challenges identified. 

Producer Challenges.png

In a 2021 survey, producers identified the technologies they need to expand and grow production. A summary of their responses is contained in the pie graph below.

Technologies Needed.png

In a 2022 survey, producers identified the technologies they need for value added processing equipment and facilities. A summary of their responses is contained in the chart below.

Processing Needs.png

Definitions and References

This section provides reference information on the definitions of the system terms used and a list of data sources and reports used to identify relevant systerm data.

System Terms

System - A group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements forming a complex whole.

System Thinking - An approach to problem-solving that views problems as part of a wider, dynamic system, emphasizing interdependencies and interactions among components rather than isolated parts.

System Innovation - Transformative changes that involve shifting and reconfiguring the interactions and relationships among components within a system to achieve substantial improvements in performance and outcomes.

System Innovation Lab - A collaborative, experimental environment where diverse stakeholders come together to address complex challenges through systemic approaches. These labs employ iterative processes, design thinking, and participatory methods to explore innovative solutions that go beyond traditional problem-solving, aiming to transform the underlying structures and dynamics of systems for long-term impact.

Market Systems - Interconnected networks of individuals, businesses, institutions, and rules that shape the production, exchange, and consumption of goods and services, aiming to create inclusive economic growth by addressing systemic constraints and opportunities.

Value Chains - The series of activities and processes that transform raw materials into finished products, adding value at each step and linking producers to consumers through a network of stakeholders, each contributing to the product's overall value and market competitiveness.

Reference Sources

2022 USDA Agriculture Census - The Census of Agriculture is a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Taken only once every five years, it looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures. See Full Report

Your Economy Time Series (YTS) Microdata Database - Time series establishment level database used by academic researchers, policy makers and economic development analysts that tracks all establishments (and their jobs) at each unique location.  Based on Dunn and Bradstreet data, it focuses on establishments that are “in-business”, meaning they are or intend to be conducting commercial activities.

USDA Hawai'i Commercial Agricultural Expansion Survey - conducted in 2021 on operations that historically have at 
least $50,000 in estimated gross value of production. The goal of this survey was to assess Hawaii agricultural 
producers’ interest in expanding their commercial production and identify barriers to expansion. See Full Report

Agricultural Innovation Center Collaboration Session Report -

Summarizes the participation, findings, conclusions and recommendations from the multi-stakeholder collaboration session designed to gather stakeholder input into the plans for the proposed Agriculture Innovation Center (AIC). A total of 48 people participated in the collaboration session in 2022, representing a diverse cross-section of producers, processors and supporters of the island’s agricultural cluster. 
See Full Report

bottom of page