The islands of Hawai‘i are like a magnet attracting insects from all over the world. Bugs catch a ride on every ship headed to the islands, and state authorities often find bug species they’d never seen before. And the bugs stay.
As Hawai‘i has no winter frost to beat back pests, over time this accumulation of bugs started to become a problem, especially for farmers. Their response: apply a heavy dose of chemicals
A Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture report from 1969 said Hawaiian farmers were using pesticides at a rate 10 times higher than the national average (in terms of pounds per acre).
In 1993, Dr. Hector Valenzuela, then a non-tenured professor of tropical plant and soil science at the University of Hawai‘i-Manoa, began a long-term research project to determine whether it’s possible to grow crops in the state without synthetic pesticides. Valenzuela, who in 1990 received his Ph.D. in vegetable crops from the University of Florida, established the first long-term organic farming research project in Hawai‘i and the Pacific region.