Diane Ragone, left, distributing ʻulu in Hauʻula. Photo courtesy of UH

Diane Ragone, left, distributing ʻulu in Hauʻula. Photo courtesy of UH

The upcoming inaugural Pacific Global Breadfruit Summit on O‘ahu will bring together experts and practitioners who will share development breakthroughs and practical applications in energy, food security, health and disaster preparedness using ‘ulu, or breadfruit, as reported by the University of Hawai‘i.

The theme of the Breadfruit Summit is Honoring and Sharing. Among the honorees will be Diane Ragone, who serves as Breadfruit Institute director for the National Tropical Botanical Garden on Kauaʻi, as titular leader of the Pacific Regional Breadfruit Initiative, and as affiliate graduate faculty in UH Mānoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

The mission focus is weaving traditional wisdom and cultural knowledge with modern science and technology, and the summit’s core values are engaging with humility, embracing with respect and sustaining with aloha.

The Breadfruit Summit, to be held August 27-31 at the Polynesian Cultural Center in La‘ie, O‘ahu, will bring together leading traditional, community, scientific and technology experts to connect the vast human, health and environmental benefits of potentially one of the most important crops of the 21st century. Experts will be from the Caribbean, South Pacific, Hawaiʻi, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Saipan, United States, Asia and Canada among others.

In 2014, The Pacific Regional Breadfruit Initiative, a project of UH’s Pacific Business Center Program, won a national award from the University Economic Development Association for its research and analysis of breadfruit.

Diane Ragone. Photo courtesy of UH

Diane Ragone. Photo courtesy of UH

According to PBCP Director Failautusi Avegalio, breadfruit is gluten-free, and the U.S. market demand for gluten-free products is projected to hit $15.5 billion this year. A compelling benefit of breadfruit is that it also has a low glycemic index and can be a major food product in the fight against obesity and diabetes rampant in Pacific Islander populations.

Additionally, major byproducts of breadfruit include breadfruit sap that is 100-percent organic latex, and the breadfruit flower, which contains several powerful chemical compounds that repel insects. The tree’s wood is resistant to marine worms and termites. The breadfruit tree also has a high salinity tolerance, enabling it to survive inundation from rising tides better than other traditional Pacific crops.

Avegalio says PBCP envisions Hawaiʻi as a major processing, refinement and export hub to the U.S. market for sustainable and gluten-free food products made from breadfruit flour. The Marianas Islands could serve a similar function for the Asian market.

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