Common Ground Kauai Launches Business Accelerator
to Revitalize a Diversified Agricultural Economy in Hawaii
Entrepreneurs, Farmers, Mentors and Impact Investors Collaborate to Fuel the Financial Viability of Sustainable Food Production
Common Ground Kauai today announced the launch of Common Ground Accelerator, a business development program designed to collaboratively revitalize a diversified and sustainable agricultural economy in Hawaii. By creating local, regional and global market opportunities, Common Ground Accelerator will cultivate the next generation of Hawai`i-based food, beverage, and farm-based entrepreneurs to establish Hawaii as a food innovation hotspot. Common Ground Accelerator cohorts will have the opportunity to scale their businesses and profits exponentially by turning raw agriculture into high value-added products.
Historically, Hawaii was a food-independent and sustainable community. Yet, despite huge tracts of fertile production soil and a wealth of food culture on the islands today, Hawaii imports 90 percent of its food at a cost of $3 billion per year. As land converts from plantations to hotels and resorts, the islands are becoming increasingly dependent on a tourism-driven economy. This challenges economic development and security, as well as the health and well-being of communities. Common Ground Accelerator aims to reverse this trend with a replicable business model that:
Kauai: Creates financially viable opportunities locally for a sustainable Kauai.
Hawaii: Revitalizes a diversified agricultural economy across the Hawaiian Islands.
Global: Scales Hawaii food innovations to meet global demand in major markets.
“The County of Kauai Office of Economic Development is honored to support the Common Ground Accelerator program,” said Robbie Melton, director at Kauai County Office of Economic Development. “We applaud Common Ground Kaua`i on its values-driven initiative to foster entrepreneurship and scale a healthy, stable and balanced economy for Kauai.”
Common Ground Accelerator Pilot
The pilot cohort for Common Ground Accelerator focuses on candidates that represent and celebrate the traditions of agriculture and robust food systems throughout Hawaii with appeal across major markets. Common Ground Accelerator invites the following start-ups, entrepreneurs and small/medium businesses to apply:
Seed stage, food and beverage companies with niche products that have reached the market and have a unique connection to Hawaii-grown ingredients, Hawaiian culture and global demand potential.
Consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies that serve the local market and/or need resources to access national and global markets.
Companies that make food and beverage packaging, provide supply chain services and otherwise support the Hawaii-based food system.
Pre-launch companies with uniquely compelling ideas.
Companies selected for Common Ground Accelerator will have access to investment capital and a broad range of hard and soft services to propel their businesses forward. Common Ground Accelerator will infuse each selected business with working capital of $50K, and up to $50K of services and training in core business skills, such as innovative product development methodology, processing and production, staffing, marketing, brand strategy, packaging, business development, and culinary insights, for a total investment of up to $100K.
To optimize a launchpad for these promising entrepreneurs, a vibrant and diversified network of Common Ground mentors and advisors — from Kauai and around the globe —will provide subject matter expertise on topics ranging from tropical permaculture and regenerative agriculture to sustainable supply chain management.
Applications for the inaugural cohort will be accepted through the Common Ground Accelerator website at
commongroundaccelerator.com until January 15, 2020. The program will run for four months, commencing March 2020.
Operating initially as a pilot program, Common Ground Accelerator is designed to scale in size as it matures over time. Future calls for cohort applicants will revolve around specific challenges, such as uses for breadfruit and other under-utilized indigenous crops, products that harness island food waste, and products with long shelf life for use in natural disasters.
“Common Ground Accelerator is an important step in the diversification of the Kauai economy,” said Monica Belz, CEO of Kauai Government Employee Federal Credit Union. “As a locally owned business, we are thrilled to partner with Common Ground Kauai on the launch of this innovative program.”
Cultivating Community through Food and Commerce
By creating a venue for global exchange on important issues facing Hawaii, Common Ground is bringing together changemakers — thinkers, creators, designers, innovators, and doers — to work collaboratively towards a positive impact and replicable model for Hawaii and beyond in the following ways:
Community Health: A robust economy founded on viable and sustainable food production can benefit the health and well-being of all people residing in Hawaii.
Workforce Development: More financially viable businesses mean more local job opportunities.
Sustainability: Common Ground Accelerator can help the state of Hawaii reach its Sustainable Hawaii Initiative to double its food production in the next five years by encouraging more agricultural supply.
Value-based Farming: With an increased demand for supply and increased crop values, the farming community will see increased returns.
Mentorships: Collaboration is key to the future of a sustainable economy, and subject matter experts are key to collaboration. Common Ground welcomes subject matter experts to connect as prospective mentors to Common Ground Accelerator cohorts.
Impact Investment: Investors support the growth of viable business entrepreneurs with capital, but more importantly, they invest in a greater mission for a sustainable Hawaii and giving back to the community.
Global Impact: Scaling Hawaii-based food producers to meet a growing global demand for new foods and sustainable production methods will position Hawaii as a recognized food innovator around the world.
Co-Directors of Common Ground Accelerator
Adam Watten, co-director of Common Ground Accelerator, is a Kauai-based chef and entrepreneur. He has a decade of experience doing business in Hawaii and navigating its unique business climate. His extensive work with local producers and small businesses brings a specialized skill set to the program. Adam is committed to fostering small business and advocating for local food systems.
“Common Ground Accelerator is the perfect tool to give value-added and agricultural producers in Hawaii more opportunities and the incentive to scale,” said Adam Watten, co-director of Common Ground Accelerator. “Using our network, we aim to give local small businesses the resources they need to reach their goals. The outcome will inevitably be that more farmland in Hawaii will remain devoted to agricultural production.”
Brian Halweil, co-director of Common Ground Accelerator, is a New York-based food storyteller and trendspotter. Brian has been editor-in-chief of four Edible magazines in the New York metro area with a recent focus on technology and investments moving into the food chain. He now works with Almanac Insights and other venture funds focused on sustainable food and agriculture.
“We've got a unique opportunity to boost food, drink, and farm-related entrepreneurs in the state,” said Brian Halweil, co-director and portfolio manager of Common Ground Accelerator. “We can create a national reputation for Hawaii as a leader in food innovation. At the crossroads of America and Asia, Hawaii-based food CPG makers are ideally positioned to meet the global demand for new flavors and farm-based products.”
How to Connect with Common Ground Accelerator?
For more information on Common Ground Accelerator, please visit commongroundacclerator.com.
About Common Ground Accelerator
Common Ground Accelerator is a business development program designed to collaboratively bolster a diversified and sustainable agricultural economy in Hawaii. By creating local, regional and global market opportunities, Common Ground Accelerator will cultivate the next generation of Hawaii-based food, beverage, and farm-based entrepreneurs to establish Hawaii as a food innovation hotspot. Common Ground Accelerator cohorts will have the opportunity to scale their businesses and profits exponentially by turning raw agriculture into high value-added products. Common Ground Accelerator is a program of CG Ventures. For more information on Common Ground Accelerator, please visit commongroundaccelerator.com.
About CG Ventures
CG Ventures is a for-profit organization forming to fund Kauai and Hawaii-based companies developing consumer goods for sale and distribution. Impact investors and subject matter experts are committed to inspiring new ideas, creating food-based products and fostering forward-thinking solutions to food system challenges on the islands through seed investments and majority acquisitions.
About Common Ground Kauai
Common Ground Kauai is building a center that brings together changemakers — thinkers, creators, designers, innovators, and doers — to collaboratively revitalize a sustainable and diversified economy in Kauai, and beyond.
Common Ground is committed to creating a local venue for global idea exchange on important issues facing Hawaii, including developing the next generation of Hawaii-based food producers and building a replicable model that can scale to meet a global demand for goods from Hawaii. Initiatives like the Common Ground Accelerator pilot, are beginning to roll out in agriculture and food, commerce, education, and the arts.
Privately held, the Common Ground campus is under development with renovations planned on 46 agricultural acres in Kilauea, Kauai, Hawaii. For more information on Common Ground, please sign up to receive our updates at www.commongroundkauai.com and follow us on Instagram @kauaicommonground.
Adam Watten, Co-Director
Brian Halweil, Co-Director / Portfolio Manager
[November 18, 2019]