Using innovative technology and mindful harvesting methods, Maui Nui Venison is on a mission to rebalance the island’s invasive deer populations.
There are an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 Axis deer on Maui, most of them inland and without “Active management” Efforts could increase that number to over 210,000 in the next 10 to 15 years, CEO and co-founder Jake Muise said Tuesday.
Maui Nui Venison is focused on alleviating environmental problems related to overpopulated deer herds and achieving sustainable food systems for the community.
“The solutions we have developed are able to manage Axis deer on a large scale.” said Muise. “If we can work together to find a balance, together we will be able to mitigate the environmental impact of these animals and increase resource availability for our communities while respecting this incredible animal through stress-free harvesting practices.”
Elemental Excelerator, a Hawaii-based global nonprofit that developed the climate technology accelerator model, has been investing in startups that aim to “Real World Challenges” such as net zero infrastructure, climate protection and greenhouse gases.
Drought and extreme weather patterns are increasing in frequency and intensity, the nonprofit said, making conservation of land, forests and marine ecosystems worse.
“Overpopulated herds of red deer can significantly reduce the functionality of water catchment areas in our high-altitude areas, compete directly with and seriously affect our ranching and farming communities, pose a hazard to our roads and contribute to sedimentation on our reefs.” Muise told The Maui News.
“In addition to consuming both grasses and crops on which ranchers and farmers rely, the Axis deer can also completely bare large areas, which leads to excessive loss of topsoil during large rainfalls.”
In addition, a particular concern within the hunting community is the possibility of overfishing and the lack of availability of resources for the future.
As self-sufficient, Muise and the team hope to address these concerns by leveling the deer population and making them one “Net positive” Situation for everyone, although this goal is tens of thousands of deer away.
The companies, selected with input from more than 40 public and private actors in Hawaii, will receive between $ 200,000 and $ 500,000 to implement and expand their mitigation technologies.
“We are excited and grateful for this invitation to continue learning what it means to develop technologies and processes based on mutual relationships with Aina and the community, relationships that could best contribute to solutions to climate change.” said Muise. “Maui deer population balance and finding a rich source of food have always been central to our work.”
According to Elemental Excelerator, game produces only 25 percent of emissions from cattle, and Maui County is helping to eliminate additional methane by targeting unsustainable deer populations.
Both the funding and the Elemental Excelerator opportunity will help Muise move most of the game meat processing from the mainland to the island and build more channels for local game meat consumption.
“Maritime shipping, especially frozen cargo, needs too much fossil fuels”, he said. “If we can both process locally and partially replace other proteins shipped to Hawaii, the impact will be significant.”
As of 2012, Elemental Excelerator has reached 136 companies, including 12 from Hawaii.
âFrom our work in Hawaii, we know that technology offers half the solution and the community the other. If we invest with this knowledge, we can decarbonise faster, focus on fair solutions and be better investors. “ said Dawn Lippert, Founder and CEO of Elemental. âMany companies in this year’s cohort have technologies that can transform Hawaii’s economy and industry – from shipping to food and agriculture to transportation – and we believe they will have a positive impact on our state in the years to come. “
All of the game harvested from Maui Nui Wild comes from a field operation that actively manages deer populations with pioneering infrared cameras, making nighttime detection of deer much more accurate and providing a stress-free experience for the animal.
Maui Nui Venison also has a mobile 9-meter-long slaughterhouse that enables them to quickly slaughter, process, refrigerate and store deer on site. The unit is approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and can be moved at night.
In collaboration with farmers and ranchers in the highlands, around 150 to 200 deer are harvested each week.
Using stress-free methods, Muise said: “We never bait the animals, do not pen or pull a trailer”, and USDA staff are present throughout the harvest process.
The pioneering infrared technology also enables the team to record information for population surveys, which is made available to landowners and the community as a resource.
“The systems that we have built over the past 10 years are a combination of high-precision measurements and innovative field harvesting processes.” he added. “These systems create a complete management solution that allows us to take full advantage of these animals through USDA certification and track our progress toward equilibrium.”
From April 2020 through April this year, 3,577 deer were harvested, which would reduce the growth of Maui’s Axis deer populations by nearly 15,000 over the next five years, according to the Maui Nui Venison website. These efforts also equate to approximately 4.5 million pounds of dry forage salvaged for local ranch and farmland.
In the same year-long period, 139,000 pounds of wild game were harvested (98 percent of the animal is used), with 42,000 pounds donated to food unsafe locations in the community; that’s about 100,000 meals.
Over the next several months, the team will complete a survey from Ulupalakua to Paia funded by the Maui County’s Department of Housing and Human Concerns.
“These data will be crucial to compensate for population growth in the years to come.” he said.
For more information about Maui Nui Wild, visit maui nuivenison.com.
For more information on Elemental Excelerator, visit elementalexcelerator.com/.
* Dakota Grossman can be reached at [email protected]