About Our Salt Farm
Ancient Hawaiians began to populate Keāhole Point in the district known as Ho‘ona, the westernmost point of Hawai‘i Island, about 1,000 years ago. Well known for its ocean resources, that historic reputation would eventually manifest itself in the establishment of the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA) in the early 1970ʻs. Today, NELHA is an 877 acre facility for the research and commercialization of alternative energy, ocean minerals, Deep Ocean Water and marine life conservation. The NELHA "campus" is home to our 7-acre facility where we make unique salts, nigari, nigari supplements and neutraceuticals.
Keāhole Point, Ho‘ona
Our salt farm is located at Keāhole Point, in the area known as Ho‘ona, the westernmost point of Hawai‘i Island. The unique geological features on land and offshore of Keāhole Point (named after the Āhole fish) has historically provided Ho’ona with an abundance of resources. 1,000 years ago, Anchialine ponds provided brackish water where ʻopae ‘ula, an endemic shrimp, algae and seaweeds grew. The ponds were ringed by native plants, including makaloa used for making fine mats. Fresh water could be gathered from lava tubes for limited farming and drinking, and there were rich fishing grounds right offshore.
Ancient Hawaiian Fishing Grounds
The combination of unique ocean currents and the bathymetry (underwater topography) created a natural ocean upwelling. Upwelling, is a phenomenon that transports water rich in nutrients to the ocean surface. These nutrients “fertilize” surface waters, encouraging the growth of plant life, including phytoplankton and through the food chain eventually resulting in unusually productive fishing grounds. Ho’ona was also famous for Pā‘aiea, a thoughtfully managed fishpond 3 miles long and 1.5 miles wide, owned by Kamehameha the Great. In 1801 the fishpond was covered by lava when Mount Hualalai erupted and later a small settlement arose again.
NELHA, Est. 1974
NELHA, The Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority, was founded in 1974 to research the potential uses of very cold Deep Ocean Water for OTEC (Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion) and explore as Governor Ariyoshi put it, “the mineral resources of the Pacific.” The location was selected because the bathymetry provided the ability to easily access Deep Ocean Water directly offshore. Over time, NELHA has expanded to 877 acres and the companies and research and educational institutions located there are involved in neutraceuticals, aquaculture and research.
Deep Ocean Water
Deep Ocean Water is created when ice is formed off Greenland, and the salt, which canʻt freeze, is left in the surface water. The surface water becomes denser and heavier and sinks to the bottom of the sea. That water becomes part of the Thermohaline Circulation and 900 years later, via the Global Conveyor Belt, it reaches Keāhole Point. A 40” pipe travels a mile offshore and 2,200 ft. deep and pumps the seawater up to our solar evaporation beds. Keāhole Point is one of very few places in the world where this is possible.
Kona Sea Salts
Our company began life in 1992 when a team of University researchers founded a startup venture, Aquasearch Inc., to explore the uses of micro algae as a clean energy source and salmon feed additive. In the process, they discovered that Astaxanthin has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties for people and they were the first to make it available as a consumer nutritional supplement, AstaFactor. In 2004 they began to produce Kona Sea Salts using Deep Ocean Water using a contemporary version of traditional Hawaiian salt making technology, solar-evaporation.
There are a wide variety of excellent non-profits, research and educational organizations trying to make the world, and our oceans, a better place.