After hosting an Earth Day community event last weekend to celebrate the first blooms in its Maui sunflower biofuel crop, Pacific Biodiesel Technologies on Thursday delivered its combine harvester to the crop site to prepare for the first harvest, expected to begin in the next month when the sunflowers have fully matured.
Pacific Biodiesel purchased the combine from a family farm in Northern California. It will be used to mechanically harvest the sunflowers and other oil and grain crops – and it will operate on 100 percent biodiesel produced by the company at its refinery on the Big Island. “We look forward to experimenting with harvesting our first sunflowers. With this combine, we’ll be able to harvest a variety of crops that we’re planning to grow in the future, including safflower, canola and maybe even chickpeas in addition to the sunflowers,” said Bob King, President and Founder of Pacific Biodiesel.
The current sunflower field sits on 14 acres of an initial 115-acre crop project site that will help expand diversified agriculture by growing combine-harvested oil crops on land previously used for sugar cane production. Currently this is the largest biofuel crop project in the state of Hawaii and the only biofuel farming operation in the state running on 100% renewable fuel, demonstrating the company’s sustainable, community-based model of agriculture and renewable energy.
Pacific Biodiesel planted sunflowers as its first biofuel crop on Maui, applying the knowledge learned from its past experience and partnership with the U.S. military as part of the Hawaii Military Biofuels Crop Program that demonstrated the planting, growing and processing of biodiesel feedstocks on Oahu and Hawaii island.
Bob King explained the company’s sustainable farming practices, “We have carefully chosen our crops to be mindful of the inputs. We are also actively researching and using alternatives to chemical fertilizer/pesticides, including compost from Maui EKO to replace fertilizer and crop rotation to reduce pests. So far we have used no irrigation but we will during hot summer months. We have used no herbicides or pesticides, and we don’t plan to ever use them. Also, these are non-GMO crops.”
“The major bloom is now over and the plants next will dry down for harvest. People are already noticing that the flowers are starting to droop over and turn brown. This is completely natural and part of the lifecycle of the plant. When the flowers have fully matured and dried, which will happen in another three or four weeks, they will be ready for harvest,” King said about the status of the crop. “Last week we planted our second sunflower crop adjacent to the first crop; it should begin blooming two months from now. We have begun planning for safe ways to enjoy the next crop and will announce those options in the future.”
Pacific Biodiesel hosted a free community event powered by biodiesel completely off the grid at its Maui biofuel crop site last Saturday, April 22, known around the world as Earth Day. Following weeks of community interest as the blooming sunflowers generated attention island-wide and dominated local social media, the company’s Earth Day event provided access for the public to visit the farm to celebrate the inaugural crop’s sunflower blooms.
Vice President Kelly King said, “As eye-catching symbols of sustainability, these beautiful blooms showcase Pacific Biodiesel’s community-based model of agriculture, clean energy and food — and they give us hope for our state’s green economy future.”
During the event, guests were given sunflower blooms freshly cut from the field and were invited to plant a seed for the next crop, take photos in the sunflower field and enter the company’s Earth Day 2017 sunflower photo contest. Maui Tropical Plantation partnered with Pacific Biodiesel to provide public parking for the event; guests were transported to the farm site on complimentary shuttles fueled with the company’s locally made biodiesel. The event also featured special live performances by musician friends of Pacific Biodiesel, including Gail Swanson, Cheryl Rae Mullen, Maná Brasil with Bita Fonseca and Klaudia Raab, Tom Conway, Pat Simmons Jr., Marty Dread and Soul Kitchen Maui.
The event was held on Earth Day to commemorate the company’s one year anniversary of being named the world’s first biodiesel producer certified by the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance for sustainable production and distribution practices. “Eco Champion” passes were sold at the event for $20 that included various Earth Day items; net proceeds benefitted the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance to support local, sustainable biodiesel production in communities across the nation.