Cacao Orchard Establishment – Resource Guide

This resource guide contains useful information for new and prospective cacao growers in Hawai’i. We pack as much relevant information as possible into Skill Up! Events and aim to highlight important points on how to successfully participate in the exciting but challenging cacao and chocolate value chain as a farmer, ag-tourism operator or value-added operation. We know there’s only so much information you can soak up in a single event, so the goal of this document is to help you know who to reach out to with questions or to learn more, whether it’s a consultant to design your new farm, a nursery to provide high-quality seedlings or grafts, a CTAHR researcher, fellow farmer or chocolate festival with educational talks.

The resources we’ve pulled together are broken down into four categories, each with a brief description. We welcome you to stay in touch with our organization’s work to support Hawaii’s growing cacao and chocolate industry via our website and newsletter.

Resource Guide Contents

  1. Service Providers
  2. Cacao Publications & Researchers
  3. Organizations, Events and Education
  4. Non-profit & Grant Programs for Farmers

Service Providers

This is an introductory list of service providers for cacao farmers in Hawaiʻi that we have compiled to assist new and prospective cacao farmers. We have included websites and info sheets when available. We encourage you to shop around to understand the services provided and identify the best fit for your operation.

We do not endorse any specific service providers or products. Service providers that wish to be included in our resource packet can send us an info sheet and/or website link to

  • Cacao Services, Inc. ( – agricultural and scientific consulting for cacao production systems.
  • Crop Nutrient Services – ( Soil analysis and crop nutrient recommendations on how to amend the soil and fertilize cacao on your site from agronomist Pete Bunn.
  • Green Field Nursery – wholesale orders of seedling and grafted cacao, as well as a variety of species ideal for shade and windbreaks in cacao production systems.
  • Manoa Chocolate Company ( – a chocolate company that provides private label manufacturing, cacao evaluation services and buys dried, fermented cacao. They have a Farmer Services Program Manual that details the different ways that local growers can partner with Manoa, from private labeling to an innovative payment plan to get high-quality Hawaii growers paid a portion of the final sales price on each chocolate bar made with their beans.  Manoa has also published a series of videos on chocolate production and other good information for growers and enthusiasts:
  • Puna Chocolate Company ( – a chocolate company that provides nursery services, orchard management and buys dried, fermented cacao and wet bean.

Cacao Publications

The following publications on cacao production in Hawaii are available in electronic form – links have been provided whenever possible. 

  • “Black Pod Rot of Cacao” a video of a lecture by Dr. Scott Nelson and Skip Bittenbender from UH to the East Hawaii Cacao Association; available on Youtube.
  • “Black Pod Rot of Cacao caused by Phytophthera palmivora” (Vanegtern et al, 2015)
  •  “Cacao Grafting in Hawaii” a CTAHR video produced by Colin Hart; it is available on Youtube.
  • The Economics of Cacao Production in Kona” (Fleming et al, 2009) This publication offers a detailed breakdown of the costs components of cacao production as well as revenue from marketing wet and dry cacao beans. There is an accompanying spreadsheet that allows farmers to forecast income and costs per acre based on market pricing and planting density.
  • “Evaluation of Field Cage Designs for Seed-Planted Cacao” (Ferrer and Bittenbender, 2018) A single-page write-up of new research offering best practice recommendations for direct seeding cacao in Hawaii, including an evaluation of options for weed management (herbicide vs. weed mat) and tree cages (sizing & films).
  • Production and Marketing Profile for Cacao” (Hebbar et al, 2011) A well-written overview of cacao in Hawaii (and the Pacific), including tips on planting, marketing and home chocolate-making. This is an excellent starting place.
  • Producing Cacao in Northern Australia” (Diczbalis et al, 2010) Most important origins of cacao have publicly available production manuals. They vary in quality and I’ve seen very few that are in English. This well-done manual from Northern Australia is more relevant than most due to its geographic and economic similarity to Hawaii (compared to most cacao origins).
  • Sizing the Craft Chocolate Market” (Martin, 2017) Carla Martin, researcher and founder of the Fine Chocolate and Cacao Institute, has made the best stab yet at a near impossible task: making an informed guestimate at the volume of cacao and chocolate that can be characterized as “craft” or “specialty”. This is of particular importance to Hawaii, where locally produced cacao is priced above specialty cacao.
  • Cacao Grading Protocol” (FCCI, 2016) An exhaustively detailed protocol to standardize tasting and grading fine cacao.
Researchers and Extension Agents

Several University of Hawaii faculty and extension staff touch on cacao through their own research, that of their students, or through their extension work directly with farmers. Their extension publications are publicly available and easily found through internet searches, though their webpages are the best place to visit for news on current research efforts and publications.

Dr. H.C. Skip Bittenbender, Emeritus UH Extension Specialist in Fruit and Nuts

Dr. Nhu Nguyen,UH Assistant Professor – Soil Microbial Ecology, Diversity & Systematics)
“I’m trying to learn if/how microbes (yeast, bacteria, and other fungi) are contributing to the terroir of Hawaiian cacao. If growers are interested in learning more about this, I can develop research projects based on their input and needs and they can help me with material. I encourage them to contact me directly through my email address ( and they can learn about my research through my website.”

Dr. Amjad Ahmad, Assistant Extension Agent for Sustainable and Organic Agriculture, Wahiawa Extension Office (O’ahu)

Emilie Kirk, Assistant Extension Agent, Sustainable & Organic Agriculture (Kaua’i)

Organizations, Events and Education

This is an introductory list of organizations for cacao farmers in Hawaiʻi and the USA, as well as events and educational opportunities for specialty cacao and chocolate professionals and enthusiasts. Visit their webpage for up-to-date information and tickets.

We do not endorse any specific entries on this list and request that any organizations or events that wish to be included in our resource list contact us by email with their request (

Non-profit & Govt. Programs of Relevance for Cacao Farmers