Maui News

Pacific Biodiesel plants its first Kauaʻi sunflower field, modeled after Maui’s

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Kumu Troy Hinano Lazaro conducts Pacific Biodiesel’s Earth Day blessing of its first sunflower field on Kauaʻi. PC: Pacific Biodiesel

In commemoration of Earth Day, Pacific Biodiesel Founders Bob and Kelly King welcomed community leaders and local students on a tour of the company’s new crushing mill and expanded agriculture operations, followed by a blessing of its first sunflower field on Kauaʻi on April 22, 2024.

While Pacific Biodiesel is headquartered on Maui, it has nearly 100 employees statewide, including 50 who work at its biodiesel refinery on Hawaiʻi Island. Additionally, Pacific Biodiesel announced earlier this year it would expand its agriculture operations to Kauaʻi. This was part of a federally funded project to develop a model for regenerative agriculture-based biofuel produced in Hawaiʻi from multiple locally grown oilseed cover crops.

The company’s farming will initially be done on Gay & Robinson land in Kaumakani, utilizing new and existing fields for oilseed cover crops in rotation with other food and fuel crops. The project’s model will include expanded production of culinary oils and other value-added food products, meal for animal feed, biodiesel, and co-products from biodiesel production such as glycerin and potassium salt-cake, which can be used as non-petroleum fertilizer for local agriculture.


Following a tour and an Earth Day blessing, Pacific Biodiesel’s agriculture operations team began planting its first 100-acre sunflower field on Kauaʻi.

Pacific Biodiesel begins planting sunflowers on the 100-acre field, its first on Kauaʻi. PC: Pacific Biodiesel

Pacific Biodiesel reports it farms the drought-tolerant sunflowers with no pesticides or herbicides and utilizes biodiesel-powered farm equipment as well as an efficient pivot irrigation system. The company expects the first sunflower blooms in July and harvesting of the field by late summer.

“At its core, this project supports Hawaiʻi’s circular economy, using local resources and creating local jobs to produce products for our local community while urgently fighting the effects of climate change,” said Pacific Biodiesel Founder and President Robert King.


Kelly King, who began researching and envisioning the biofuel crop project 20 years ago, said it was a dream come true. “I didn’t know if it would happen in my active time with our company,” King recalled, “but it is amazing to see my vision of sunflowers to cooking oil to biodiesel come to fruition! I guess I told enough people that when the first bloom happened on Maui, folks were calling it ‘Kelly’s field of dreams’!”

Pacific Biodiesel expects to begin hosting educational farm tours on Kauaʻi when its sunflower fields are in bloom.

“As we’ve seen again and again at our farm on Maui, our sunflowers are a major attraction for visitors and locals alike. We’ve hosted dozens of farm tours for customer teams, media, school groups and special events for the community,” King said.

Maui sunflower field. PC: Fork & Salad

On Maui, the company is gearing up for its third annual Sunflower Farm Music Festival at its Maui farm on Saturday, May 4. The event, produced by multi-platinum music producer Kerry Brown and his Licorice Pizza Records team, will feature farm tours throughout the day, a farmers market with local produce and products, and a lineup of incredible musicians – all to raise funds for Maui nonprofits that support food security.

Founded on Maui in 1995, Pacific Biodiesel annually produces nearly 6 million gallons of premium distilled biodiesel at its refinery on Hawaiʻi Island. The biodiesel is currently produced primarily from used cooking oil and grease trap residue recycled from restaurants and food service facilities statewide. Since 2017, Pacific Biodiesel founders Bob and Kelly King with their company Maiden Hawaii Naturals, LLC have been farming sunflowers and other oilseed cover crops as a feedstock for local biodiesel production and for the local production of culinary oils and animal feed. The community-scale production currently centers on sunflower oil from crops farmed on Maui and macadamia oil from waste culls sourced on Hawaiʻi Island.


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