I wish you good health and happiness, especially as we prepare to start the third year of global disruption and adaptation. This time last year, we were looking forward to emerging from the COVID cloud, and we can only harbor the same hope for 2022.
It has been a long time since my last update, for which I apologize. Not surprisingly, the protracted pandemic condition put a lot of projects on hold, and fundamentally changed many facets of our sector, our business, and our lives. Both due to, and in spite of, these changes, I am happy to report that Smart Yields remains an ongoing concern, albeit with a different form and focus than in 2020.
USDA Best Beans:
The best update on this project is in the form of a recent interview on Hawaii Public Radio, which you can listen to here:
This three-minute video provides a good introduction:
A more detailed overview of the project, in which Smart Yields is providing grower-led decision support mobile software for monitoring and reporting coffee berry borer (CBB) and coffee leaf rust (CLR) on Hawaii Island can be found in this PowerPoint presentation:
We have also entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, extending through June 2026, for our project “Mobile Application to Support Coffee Berry Borer Control and Coffee Quality.”
USDA Innovation Award
Our work with Dr. Nicholas Manoukis and Melissa Johnson at the USDA office in Hilo was selected for the USDA-ARS Daniel K. Inouye U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center Innovation Fund. Our project, “Development of New and Improved Surveillance, Detection, Control, and Management Technologies for Fruit Flies and Invasive Pests of Tropical and Subtropical Crops,” was among the top 10 applications out of 37 and received $25,000 funded in the 14th round.
The funding will go toward making the Best Beans app more commercially viable through the integration of weather data from a Smart Yields sensor network. It will also support the parallel development of the app for both Apple and Android devices.
I am excited to announce that I have been tapped to design and build a new UH System-Wide Incubator. This project is under the UH Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation. This effort was recently the beneficiary of $2.7 million CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), matched with $813,068 of local funding.
I am excited to assume this role, a personal and professional milestone that’s perfectly aligned with my own vision for growing Hawaii’s innovation sector. It will also afford me a unique perspective over a number of complementary initiatives spanning industry, academia, research, and even government policy. I believe this will benefit Smart Yields, broadly and in the long term.
Of course, to ensure there is no conflict of interest, I am complying with UH and state rules and limiting my involvement in Smart Yields, removing myself from day-to-day operations as well as project planning and development.
To ensure continuity, my cofounder and long-time mentor Ryan Ozawa has assumed the role of Smart Yields CEO. The transition has gone smoothly and Ryan and the rest of the team are continuing to pursue and develop additional opportunities in the ag-tech space.
Meanwhile, we have brought Wissam Ali-Ahmad aboard as Chief Technology Advisor. Wissam brings twenty years of technical expertise in areas of big data analytics, security, cloud infrastructure, and enterprise software. He currently serves as the Lead Solutions Architect for Splunk, a data analytics firm specializing in IT, DevOps, and security. While living on Kauai, Wissam volunteered his technical skills to assist local non-profit organizations to leverage technology for addressing the food sustainability needs of the local community.
Other team members and partners include:
Everette Ganir – the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Biological Science Technician at USDA.
Anwar Ali-Ahmad – Software Engineer
Erin Martin – Joined us as an intern in 2019, is back supporting USDA & SY project. Erin is currently a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University studying Environmental Science and Policy.
We need your support:
We are making inroads with other coffee regions currently impacted by Coffee Leaf Rust (Central and South America, SE Asia). Much of this effort is led by the recent $6M push for a combined effort to support growers. If you know someone we should reach out to on the operations or funding side, we’d enjoy connecting. (3 min VIDEO to share)
Please feel free to reach out to Ryan and we will be sure to send out another update in 2H.