Who can be without knowledge on the path so long walked upon by my ancestors

Kalaninuiliholiho Kamehameha II



4 Categories | 8 weeks | 8 workshops | $10,000+ awards


University of Hawaiʻi students, faculty, and affiliates: Kukulu kakoʻo (rise together) to the challenges of our times.

Create indigenous innovations for ecological and community wellbeing and carbon drawdown.

In Hawaiʻi and other island communities, we experience the environmental effects of global warming first hand. In the last decade alone, we’ve seen our corals bleach, native plants go extinct, beaches disappear, and flooding destroy local peoples’ livelihoods and built infrastructure. But these conditions weren’t always the norm…

Our islander ancestors had calibrated systems that created abundance for current and future generations. We must seek inspiration from them, act intentionally, and direct our efforts to recalibrate our contemporary systems to be like those that existed before us, and thus the focus on (k)new solutions. 

To amplify these efforts, the University of Hawaiʻi (UH) and the Purple Maiʻa Foundation are teaming up to empower UH undergraduate and graduate students to develop innovative ideas in four strategic areas that a group of kanaka maoli practitioners, social entrepreneurs, and sustainability experts have identified as most necessary and impactful to Hawaiʻi’s communities and ecosystems. They include

  1. Indigenous Peoples’ Land Management
  2. Ocean Farming / Marine Permaculture
  3. Regenerative Agriculture
  4. Afforestation

These strategic areas are inspired by the internationally recognized frameworks articulated in Paul Hawken’s Project Drawdown

If you are a UH Student or Faculty with an intention to ideate place-based, community-driven solutions to mitigate the effects of our changing climate, you can apply to participate in the (K)new Futures Challenge during January 2020–the first month of a decade of Ecosystem Restoration, Ocean Science and Sustainable Development, and Indigenous Innovation.

Applicants will participate in an 8-week workshop series to ideate solutions. At the end of the process, you’ll have a chance to pitch for prizes of up to $2,000 and an opportunity to dramatically accelerate your project in the 2020 Purple Prize.

E hume i ka malo, e ho’okala i ka ‘ihe. Apply today.

Program Timeline

Drawdown Solution Categories

Indigenous Peoples’ Land Management

Indigenous communities have long been the frontline of resistance against deforestation; resource extraction; and the expansion of destructive development. Their resistance prevents land-based carbon emissions, and maintains or increases carbon sequestration.

Indigenous land management also conserves biodiversity, maintains a range of ecosystems services, safeguards rich cultures and traditional ways of life, and responds to the needs of the most vulnerable. Practices include agroforestry systems, shifting swidden cultivation, pastoral approaches to raising livestock, fire management, and community managed forests.

(citation: Project Drawdown: Indigenous Peoples’ Land Management)

Ocean Farming / Marine Permaculture

Ocean farming is not a modern innovation. Once a sustainable practice, aquaculture has devolved into monolithic factory farms known for their low-quality fish treated with antibiotics and fungicides that pollute local waterways.

Native Hawaiians have been charting a different course for centuries, developing and now restoring loko iʻa fishponds, which are capable of providing a sustainable, local source of fish. How might we apply and amplify this indigenous knowledge in innovative ways?

(citation: Project Drawdown: Ocean Farming)

Regenerative Agriculture

Conventional science has long held that the world cannot be fed without chemicals and synthetic fertilizers. Evidence now points to ancestral wisdom: The world cannot be fed unless the soil is fed. Regenerative agriculture enhances and sustains the health of the soil by restoring its carbon content, which in turn improves productivity—just the opposite of conventional agriculture.

Regenerative agricultural practices include: no tillage, diverse cover crops, in-farm fertility (no external nutrients), no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, and multiple crop rotations.

Together, these practices increase carbon-rich soil organic matter. The result: vital microbes proliferate, roots go deeper, nutrient uptake improves, water retention increases, plants are more pest resistant, and soil fertility compounds. 

(citation: Project Drawdown: Regenerative Agriculture)


Creating new forests where there were none before and regenerating deteriorating forests is the aim of afforestation. 

Afforestation can take a variety of forms but we are most interested in seeding dense plots of diverse indigenous species. When successful, afforestation creates a carbon sink, drawing in and holding on to carbon and distributing it into the soil.

Inspiration: Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki devised a place-based method of afforestation. His fast-growing, dense plots of native species show that afforestation can draw down carbon, while supporting biodiversity, addressing human needs for firewood, food, and medicine, and providing ecosystem services such as flood and drought protection.

(citation: Project Drawdown: Ocean Farming)

Taking Place at the iLab

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Innovation Lab a.k.a. iLab

RISE to meet the challenges we've created!

Applications Due February 1, 2020
Apply today!





2438 S Beretania Street
Honolulu, HI 96826