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NTBG’s Breadfruit Institute demonstrates potential with new collaborations

For centuries, breadfruit has been a vital food crop throughout Oceania. Voyagers carried planting material from the nutrient-rich fruit-bearing tree across the Pacific. Countless generations of farmers have cultivated breadfruit for its versatile, starchy fruits from Southeast Asia and the Pacific, to the Caribbean, Africa, and beyond. Since 2003, when the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) established the Breadfruit Institute, interest and awareness for the attractive, long-lived, high-yield tree crop has spread around the world.

The Breadfruit Institute, based at NTBG headquarters in Hawaii, has assembled the world’s largest and most diverse collection of breadfruit varieties (more than 200 trees representing around 150 varieties) on Maui and Kauai. In 2017, with funding from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture and Patagonia Provisions, the Breadfruit Institute began a bold initiative to transform the existing breadfruit research orchard in the McBryde Garden on Kauai into a regenerative organic breadfruit agroforest (ROBA).

Based on the traditions of agroforestry (food forests) practiced throughout the Pacific and elsewhere, the Breadfruit Institute developed the ROBA, a sustainable living model of how a long-lived tree crop like breadfruit can be integrated with a multitude of other edible and ornamental plants to increase productivity while integrating existing resources to enrich the soil and sequester carbon.

Plants such as bananas, taro, sugar cane, ginger, citrus, understory row crops, and others are being grown alongside mature breadfruit trees, producing an abundance of food that can feed people year-round while at the same time, creating more favorable conditions for the surrounding breadfruit trees which produce seasonally.

Through its many partnerships and collaborations, NTBG and the Breadfruit Institute have changed the trajectory of this centuries-old tree crop, infusing new enthusiasm and an interest shared by farmers, chefs, nutritionists, educators, non-governmental organizations, and communities around the world seeking to improve food security, soil health, and environmental conditions.

For five years, Patagonia Provisions has supported the work of the Breadfruit Institute in demonstrating how breadfruit agroforestry can help nourish people and the planet. Now, in collaboration with a breadfruit growers’ cooperative in Costa Rica assisted by the Breadfruit Institute, Patagonia Provisions has produced an exciting new breadfruit cracker that will allow this tropical crop to be easily shipped, shared, and enjoyed no matter where you live.

This delicious, healthful cracker is the latest example of how an ancient, traditional tropical food crop is adapting to meet the needs of the global community. The cracker also illustrates the incredible potential of breadfruit and the important role agroforestry and regenerative organic agriculture can have in creating a healthier, hunger-free planet.

To learn more about breadfruit and agroforestry, and how you can experience and connect with the Breadfruit Institute and National Tropical Botanical Garden, visit https://ntbg.org/breadfruit/.

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