Larry Ellison plans to launch hydroponic farming venture in Hawaii later this year

Ellison discusses his hydroponic farming startup (Photo: Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

Editor’s note: I used to regularly interview Larry Ellison when I was the chief technology writer at The Chronicle, and I enjoy following his ventures. Later this year, Ellison plans to launch a hydroponic farming venture in Hawaii, which imports 85 percent of its food. The plan is drawing more local attention, I noticed on my trip to Honolulu this past week.  This is not the first venture of its kind on an island. The Caribbean island of Anguilla, which we have visited several times including on our honeymoon, had a hydroponic farm at the CuisinArt resort. The background about Ellison’s venture is here:

“Billionaire Larry Ellison is getting into the sustainability and healthy eating game with a new company based on his very own private island (on Lanai in Hawaii),” as Celebrity Net Worth is reporting. “It’s called Sensei, a network of hydroponic farms developed in conjunction with Steve Jobs’ old doctor, cancer specialist Dr. David Agus. In a recent press statement about the project, Agus had this to say about the new venture:

“‘As a society, we’ve become so detached from knowing our food, knowing where it comes from and why we eat what we eat. With Sensei we hope to increase transparency and restore our relationship with food.’

“Sensei is starting out with ten hydroponic greenhouses, 200,000 square feet each. Together, Ellison told the Honolulu Star Advertiser he expects them to yield about 1.7 million pounds of produce per year. That amount is said to surpass that which could supply Lanai, the private Hawaiian island

“Ellison bought 98 percent of back in 2012 for $300 million, and the business plan for now is to sell the produce in Hawaii, where 85 percent of the food is imported.

“The plan is also for Sensei to be a technological leader in the industry, as the company’s president Daniel Gruneberg explains in a statement:

“‘For so long, agriculture has been one of the least digitized industries. Now, we can combine software, sensors and robotics to make giant leaps in sustainable farming and perhaps, more importantly, the quality of our food.’

“Sensei hydroponic farming will work by first importing fruit and vegetable seeds from all over the world, which will then be cultivated hydroponically (in water, rather than in soil) on the island. This method requires 90 percent less water than traditional farming, and the greenhouses will also be outfitted with Tesla brand solar panels for even greater environmental sustainability. If all goes according to plan, the produce itself will be more nutritious and better tasting, too, since data will be collected digitally from the yield to be studied by researchers in order to maximize the produce in those two areas.’

“And in case you’re wondering, Sensei’s first crops will be Black Trifele tomatoes and Komatsuna mustard greens.”

The article is here.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.

4 thoughts on “Larry Ellison plans to launch hydroponic farming venture in Hawaii later this year”

  1. Our trip to Hawaii last year was an eyeopener about the rail system they are building on Oahu. While in Kauai we heard stories of anger over the other islanders having to pay for something that was on another island. Talk about taxing – BTW- the traffic on Oahu, near Honolulu, was exactly like LA freeways during rush hour. I lived there when they were building H1 and H2 (the highways that cris- cross and go around the island). Those both went over budget and were the source of anger from the locals. Now the rail system is over budget and is a source of anger from the locals, while Hawaiian Airlines has announced increasing flight into Kauai by 40%.
    Aloha-

    1. Thanks Chip. Here’s the latest on that issue. http://www.civilbeat.org/2018/04/how-will-honolulu-pay-for-rail-once-its-built-the-city-still-doesnt-know/
      And Kauai is still digging out.
      Good point about the highways. Most of our visits to Oahu are across the aging Pali Highway to Lanikai, where a former Chronicle colleague had a place that we rented. I have enjoyed this trip on Waikiki, however, staying at the Royal Hawaiian, Halekulani, Parc Waikiki, and Ali’i Tower, a hidden boutique hotel in the vast Hilton Hawaiian Village for a few days each. Thanks to Hilton and Starwood hotel “points,” and the AMEX “Fine Hotels” program, it’s been very affordable. And it’s offseason. Each place has its own unique attributes, and history (the Royal Hawaiian and Halekulani, in particular) and the ocean views and walks along the beach are fabulous. I keep looking west, not east, where the the shopping is located. Scouting out a place for our family next time.

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