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Growing Kava in Hawaii

Hi everyone, I wanted to take this time to give you folks a bit of insight into the kava industry in Hawaii.  People have asked a lot of questions in the recent past about growing kava and the amount of kava it takes to make Medium grind and even micronized kava, I hope this will help to answer some of the questions.

Kava is a hard plant to grow and process.  It takes a minimum of three years to grow a mature kava plant, it takes a lot of space per plant. A good yield for a mature 3 year old  kava plant would be about 20-30 pounds of fresh kava root. Once it’s dried you end up with about 25% of that, so 5-6 pounds of dry medium grind kava. That means that to process, oh say, 250 lbs., for the sake of argument, a grower needs 1,000 lbs. fresh. Micronized kava is different, for example, if I wanted to make micronized kava, using my process it will decreases the weight by 50% due to removing makas, then I would need an entire ton (2,000 lbs.) of fresh root to make 250 pounds of micronized kava.

 

Here are some facts from several farmers in Hawaii.  The yield for a kava plant will depend on the variety, growing conditions (weather, sunshine,etc) and the grower.

 

In 3 years I can get 25-45 pounds of wet root depending on the variety of kava.  A Mahakea will yield more than say a Papa Ele Ele.  If you take care of your kava and feed it well with a good compost then you can get more weight per kava plant than if you did not take care of it.
The yield of kava plants is different in Hawaii when compared to Vanuatu,Fiji or other kava growing areas, not saying I have not seen huge kava in these areas but just talking in general.  There is information on the yield of kava in Vanuatu in Dr. Lebot’s book “The Pacific Elixor”.
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I have several farms at different locations here in the Big Island but I am not going to get into my farms as much as this technique for mono cropping kava.
I have one farm that I do mono cropping of kava and the others are not mono cropped.  I will now show you some figures that will show that it is easy to get a lot of kava if you know what your doing.
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A friend of mine that used to grow kava here in Hawaii up until just after the kava ban, was manager of a company that grew and processed kava and sold to the German market, this company was Agrinom LLC. The manager, Mathew Archibald, managed the production of Kava for the German pharmaceutical market. He designed and built the first automated continuous flow processing facility for the production of extract grade kava for the pharmaceutical market in Europe. This facility automatically washed, dried, milled and packaged 1000 lbs per hour of wet kava root with a single operator. He would also oversee maintenance and harvesting of the ‘Awa. At one time, total production levels reached 50,000 lbs per month of high grade, dry kava root all from their own ‘Awa fields.
Agrinom was selling 30,000 pounds of dried kava per month to Germany.
This was in 2002 but this is a drop from last year— In August 2001, Agrinom was shipping 50,000 pounds of dried kava a month.
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Another example is Hawaii Pacific Kava Co.  This was a company that was started by one of Hawaii’s larges and oldest companies called C. Brewer.
This is the formula they used for mono cropping kava—
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Plant spacing=1815 plants per acre that is 6 feet x 4 feet spacing.  One acre is planted and after 2 years 1/3 of the acre will be harvested and replanted and the same holds true for the 3rd and 4th year.
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So on the first harvest at the 2 year mark we estimate 10 pounds per plant but I almost always get more than that. We harvest 600 plants to get 6000 pounds of fresh kava.
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Year 3 we harvest another 600 plants and it is estimated to get 22 pounds per plant and that makes 13,200 pounds of fresh kava.
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Year 4 we harvest another 600 plants and we get 30 pounds per plant and 18,000 pounds of fresh kava.  In the 5 year the first replant will be harvested and replanted, this is a cycle that I started, from here on each year we harvest 1/3 of an acre of kava.  And the cycle keeps going.
This is the same method that Puu O Hoku Ranch used to use but I am not sure if they still do it this way.
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So you can see that it is not hard to get 2000 pounds of kava if you have the knowledge on how to grow it.  I have been growing kava for a very very long time and I have years of hands on experience growing kava and being a part of the Hawaiian kava community, this is well established.  Some of the equipment I use is similar to the equipment that was used by these companies and I use a similar but not exact way of mono cropping kava.  I used 1 acre as a numerical figure, it is not a statement that I have 1 acre of mono cropped kava.  You can see even with only 1 acre, how much kava I would harvest each cycle.
I hop you all enjoyed this little bit of facts about growing kava in Hawaii.  Aloha.
Chris