Hawaii’s tech minds take on food traceability, ag-crimes, and farmer training language barriers

AGathon group photo

Team Harvest Vision took first place at Hawaii’s premier AGathon on Sunday, Jan .14. Photo courtesy of Facebook: Sen. Mike Gabbard

After an intense two weeks of planning and coding, Hawaii technology innovators on Jan. 14 filled Impact Hub Honolulu – laptops in hand. Each teams’ representatives were poised to pitch thoughtfully crafted concepts, some already in the proofs-of-concept stage, to a panel of judges convened for the AGathon, Hawaii’s first agriculture-tech hackathon.

The AGathon was held to bring the burgeoning world of digital innovation into the age-old practice of local food production to address problems confronting Hawaii today. The event kickedoff on Jan. 6 at the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center in Waipahu, followed by an all-day hackathon Jan. 13 and “Demo Day and Awards” on Jan. 14 at Impact Hub Honolulu.

Presented by Hawaii Open Data and the state’s Hawaii Technology Development Corporation, Transform Hawaii Government was proud to support the inaugural event, along with co-sponsors Elemental Excelerator, Ulupono Initiative, and Whitmore Economic Development Group.

As intended, the AGathon successfully sparked the development of concepts for making information easily digestible and diverging from long paper-based manuals; ultimately, so farmers are able to spend more of their time growing crops, minimizinf food waste and contributing to meeting Hawaii’s local sustainable food needs.

Food Traceability Pitch

Luisa Castro, DoA Food Safety Program Manager, delivers her food traceability challenge to programmers during the kickoff event on Jan. 6, 2018.

Additional benefits are the opportunities this presents for improving interaction between farmers and government agencies as well as how those agencies manage data. With increasing compliance regulations, lack of timely and easily interpretable data hampers the efforts of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (DoA) and its partners in propelling the industry toward effective data-driven decision-making and outreach. Even while some areas are rife with aggregated data due to years of information collection, making sense of the broader situation remains a cumbersome challenge without responsive and dynamic analysis tools. Other barriers include remote locations, lack of internet connectivity, as well as potential language barriers from laborers add complexity to the agency’s technological needs.

First place team Harvest Vision impressed judges with a demo of their artificial intelligence software using a camera to recognize ripe coffee berries. As noted in a recent story in Pacific Business News, Harvest Vision received interest from local coffee producer Kauai Coffee Company, which is looking to implement the technology in 2018.

Harvest Vision PC Christopher Nguyen

First place winner Harvest Vision’s concept employs an API that uses machine learning to support harvest operations. Photo courtesy of Devpost, Christopher Nguyen.

Congratulations to Harvest Vision and the other inaugural AGathon winners:

  • First Place: Harvest Vision – an application programming interface (API) that uses machine learning to harvest coffee efficiently.
  • Second Place: Farm Safe – an app designed to explain farming and safety practices to non-English-speaking farmers in their native language.
  • Third Place: Follow the ‘Aina – a solution used for food traceability.


IT Roadmap

The state recently unveiled its IT Roadmap online dashboard. Image Courtesy of the Office of Enterprise Technology Services

One of the most significant milestones of 2017 in the areas of state IT governance and budget transparency was the unveiling of the statewide IT Roadmap. Located on the Office of Enterprise Technology Services’ (ETS) website (ets.hawaii.gov), the online resource was developed through extensive coordination with various departments and agencies within the state executive branch with the goal of creating a more accessible, cohesive and transparent dashboard for state and public use.

The statewide IT Roadmap was developed in accordance with section 27-43, Hawaii Revised Statutes, which requires state departments to create and maintain multi-year IT strategic plans and roadmaps. It serves as part of ongoing efforts by ETS’ IT Governance team to improve the state’s IT governance processes.

ETS anticipates that the implementation of the IT Roadmap will serve as a valuable tool for the overall long-term development, financial planning and execution of all significant IT activities within the executive branch. In addition, it will facilitate efforts to deploy appropriate resources efficiently in support of current large enterprise projects, such as the tax system and payroll modernization initiatives. For the public, the roadmap serves as a valuable tool for monitoring state projects, ongoing developments, budgets and schedules.

To learn more about and track current state IT projects, explore the IT Roadmap online dashboard at ets.hawaii.gov under the Department Dashboard section.

Hawaii State Public Library

The Hawaii State Library located in Downtown Honolulu. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Hawaii State Library System recently was awarded the distinguished Silver W3 award in its class, outshining more than 5,000 candidates for its innovation, user-friendly design and creativity.

Developed in partnership with Hawaii Information Consortium LLC, the award-winning website has set the bar for library websites around the country. The State Library site features personal stories and experiences, as well as the positive impact the library has had on people’s lives.

HI State Libraries website

Visit the Hawaii State Library System homepage at www.librarieshawaii.org

Additionally, the website promotes a variety of services and community events, offers its digital visitors the opportunity to connect with staff via the “Ask a Librarian” feature, and provides book recommendations from staff and study tools for youth and students. The website is also mobile device-friendly for people on the go and contains links to state and federal resources.

To experience the award-winning website for yourself, visit the Hawaii State Library System at https://www.librarieshawaii.org/ and share your own story.

By Christine Sakuda, THG Executive Director

False Missle Alert : Reuters Hugh Gentry

A combination photograph shows screenshots from a cell phone displaying an alert for a ballistic missile launch and the subsequent false alarm message in Hawaii, Jan. 13, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry


I was getting breakfast ready for my family on the morning of Jan. 13 when I received the emergency text alert, “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

By the time the official “false alarm” text was issued 38 minutes later, I had already made calls to other family members throughout Hawaii, extended “I love you(s),” and exchanged hugs with those whom we were with. Alerts also came in from my children’s schools over the rapidly unfolding situation as individuals and agencies alike sought clarity and definitive confirmation of an “all clear.”

Looking back, that Saturday’s mishap and the events that followed were keen reminders of the importance of the “people process” in any system, regardless of technological platform or application. While we may have technology at our fingertips, it is the human interaction with technology that can be the weak link.  Modernization of outdated systems includes people’s adaptation of meaningful processes that takes advantage of  technology.  This requires constant vigilance to keep pace with technology’s rapid evolution. Developing people processes to adapt and manage technology in a meaningful way is often the greatest challenge to any modernization effort.

Recognizing that our state can do better, the governor has directed Brig. Gen. Kenneth S. Hara, deputy adjutant general of the Hawaii Department of Defense, to review the current emergency response system. This will include notifications and warnings, as well as recommendations for improvement. An initial action plan will be provided no later than Feb. 13, with a final report no later than March 15.

Looking further ahead, it is encouraging that last summer Hawaii was one of the first states in the nation to opt-in to FirstNet, a first-responder network that, once built, will use advanced technologies to enable fire, police, EMS, emergency management and other public safety personnel to communicate and share information. FirstNet, or First Responder Network Authority, is an independent authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce, authorized by Congress in 2012 to develop, build and operate the nationwide network. Although opting in was only the first step, and the network – which now includes 56 territories and states – remains to be developed and launched, FirstNet represents the next evolution in modern emergency notifications.

“As is frequently noted by those most experienced with modernizing systems, updating the technology is the often-easy part, but updating processes can simultaneous present both the greatest risks and greatest opportunities.”

In the meantime, like many others I look forward to a clear-headed and thoughtful analysis of what happened on Jan. 13 and recommendations on where current processes and technology can be improved. It is our hope lessons will be learned about the importance of not only testing but questioning the testing processes as government strives to keep pace with technology and the new ways citizens obtain their information in the digital age. As is frequently noted by those most experienced with modernizing systems, updating the technology is the often-easy part, but updating processes can simultaneous present both the greatest risks and greatest opportunities.