Established in 2003, the Breadfruit Institute is a part of the Science and Conservation department of the National Tropical Botanical Garden. The institute’s mission is to promote the conservation, study, and use of breadfruit for food and reforestation. Breadfruit is an indigenous, traditional crop that continues to serve as a critical food, economic, and ecological resource for its traditional countries of origin in the Pacific, as well as in tropical communities where it is grown globally.
The Institute is a global leader in efforts to conserve and use breadfruit diversity and knowledge; with the purpose of supporting regenerative agriculture, food security, and economic development in the tropics. The Institute curates, studies, and conserves the world’s largest germplasm breadfruit—150 varieties—at NTBG’s Kahanu Garden on Maui and at McBryde Garden on Kauai.
Breadfruit Institute Team
Dr. Diane Ragone, Director Emerita
Dr. Ragone served as Director of the Breadfruit Institute from its inception in 2003 until 2022; she began working at NTBG in 1989. She is an authority on the conservation and use of breadfruit, and has conducted horticultural and ethnobotanical studies on this important Pacific staple crop for more than 30 years conducting fieldwork on 50 islands in Micronesia, Polynesia, and Melanesia. Dr. Ragone is an Affiliate Professor at the University of Hawai`i in the Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences. She has written or co-authored over 100 peer-reviewed papers, technical reports, and book chapters, as well as popular articles on breadfruit. She has also developed extensive print and web-based information resources, including videos. Dr. Ragone received the Star of Oceania in 2013; UH’s College of Tropical Agriculture’s Distinguished Alumna award in 2015; the Garden Club of America’s Medal of Honor in 2016; and the Society for Economic Botany’s Distinguished Economic Botanist (DEB) award in 2022.
Noel Dickinson, Coordinator
As Coordinator for the Breadfruit Institute, Noel Dickinson is responsible for organizing institute operations, conservation/horticulture, research, and outreach activities -including the establishment and management of the Regenerative Organic Breadfruit Agroforestry demonstration at McBryde Garden. A small farmer, born and raised in Hawai`i, Noel attended the University of Hawai`i in Hilo where she earned a B.S. in Horticulture with specialization in Tropical Plant Science and Agroecology, as well as Plant Tissue Culture certification. In addition to her responsibilities as the institute’s Coordinator, Noel is currently pursuing a PhD degree from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, focusing on improvement of conservation, curation, and management of collections of heritage crops and their wild relatives within botanical gardens -specifically Artocarpus.
Mariella Mladineo, Agroforestry Technician
Mariella earned a B.S. in Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems with a focus on ecology and production at the University of California, Davis. Her education gave her insight into the complications and rewards of pursuing environmental, economic, and social sustainability in food production. Mariella thoughtfully cultivates the Regenerative Organic Breadfruit Agroforestry demonstration at McBryde Garden using her knowledge of sustainable practices, assists in breadfruit-related research projects, and maintains an excitement for inclusivity and community opportunities at the Breadfruit Institute.