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An estimated 50,000 to 60,000 Axis deer roam Maui, with the majority Upcountry. That number could likely grow to over 210,000 over the next 10 to 15 years without management practices, according to Maui Nui Venison, which aims to balance the population while supporting a sustainable food system. MAUI NUI VENICE photos

Using innovative technology and conscious harvesting methods, Maui Nui Venison’s mission is to balance the island’s invading axis deer populations.

There are approximately 50,000 to 60,000 Axis Deer on Maui, with the majority Upcountry, and without “active management” efforts, that number could likely grow to over 210,000 over the next 10 to 15 years, CEO and co-founder Jake Muise said on Tuesday.

With a focus on mitigating environmental issues associated with overcrowded deer herds and achieving sustainable food systems for the community, Maui Nui Venison was among 19 companies selected to join the next Elemental Excelerator cohort where they will receive funding to deploy their climate technology strategies.

“The solutions that we have built have the capacity to manage the deer of the axis on a large scale”, Muise said. “If we can work together to find a balance, we can collectively mitigate the environmental impacts of these animals, as well as increase the availability of resources for our communities while respecting this incredible animal through stress-free harvesting methods. “

Elemental Excelerator, a global Hawaii-based nonprofit that designed the accelerator model for climate technology, marks 10 years of investing in startups that aim to solve “Real world challenges” such as net zero infrastructure, climate change mitigation and greenhouse gases.

Jake and Ku’ulani Muise are the founders of Maui Nui Venison

Drought and extreme weather are increasing in frequency and intensity, the association said, making the preservation of land, forests and marine ecosystems even more dire.

“Overcrowded axis deer herds can drastically reduce the functionality of watersheds in our high altitude areas, directly and severely compete with our herding and farming communities, pose a danger to our roads and contribute to the deposition of sediments on our reefs ” Muise told The Maui News.

“In addition to consuming both the grasses and crops that herders and farmers rely on, axis deer can also completely strip large areas, causing excessive loss of topsoil during heavy rains.”

In addition, a specific concern within the hunting community is the possibility of overexploitation and not having resources for the future.

As subsistence hunters themselves, Muise and the team hope to tackle these issues by leveling the deer population and making one. “net-positive” situation for everyone, although that goal is tens of thousands of deer.

The companies, which were selected with input from more than 40 Hawaiian public and private stakeholders, will receive between $ 200,000 and $ 500,000 to implement and develop their mitigation technologies.

“We are delighted and grateful for this invitation to continue learning what it means to create technologies and processes rooted in reciprocal relationships with ‘aina and the community, relationships that could better inform solutions to climate change.” Muise said. “Balancing Maui’s deer populations while releasing a rich food source has always been at the heart of our work. “

According to Elemental Excelerator, wild game only produces 25 percent of beef cow emissions and Maui County is helping remove extra methane by targeting unsustainable deer populations.

Funding and the opportunity for Elemental Excelerator will help Muise shift the majority of game processing from the mainland to the island, as well as create more channels for local game consumption.

“Maritime transport, especially frozen freight, requires excessive fossil fuels”, he said. “If we can both process locally and replace, in part, other proteins that are shipped to Hawaii, the impact will be substantial.”

Since 2012, Elemental Excelerator has reached 136 companies, including 12 in Hawaii.

“What we know from working in Hawaii is that if technology has half the solution, the community provides the other half. If we invest with this knowledge, we will be able to decarbonize more quickly, focus on fair solutions and be better investors ”, said Dawn Lippert, Founder and CEO of Elemental. “Many of the companies in this year’s cohort have technologies that can transform business and industry in Hawaii – from shipping to food and agriculture to transportation – and we believe they will have a positive impact on our condition for years to come. “

All of the venison harvested by Maui Nui Venison comes from a field operation that actively manages deer populations using forward-looking infrared cameras, making deer detection at night much more accurate and creating a stress-free experience. for the animal.

Maui Nui Venison also has a 30-foot-long mobile slaughter facility, which allows them to quickly slaughter, process, cool and store deer on site. The unit is approved by the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Food and Drug Administration and can be moved every night.

In partnership with the farmers and ranchers of the Upcountry, around 150 to 200 deer are slaughtered per week.

Using stress-free methods, said Muise, “We never bait, enclose or tow animals” and USDA staff are present throughout the harvesting process.

Forward-looking infrared technology also allows the team to record information for population surveys, which is made available to landowners and the community as a resource.

“The systems we have built over the past 10 years are a combination of very precise surveys and innovative field harvesting processes”, he added. “These systems create a comprehensive management solution that allows us to fully utilize these animals through USDA certification and to monitor our progress toward achieving balance.”

From April 2020 to April of this year, 3,577 deer were culled, which would moderate the growth of axis deer populations in Maui by nearly 15,000 over the next five years, according to the Maui website Nui Venison. These efforts also amount to about 4.5 million pounds of dry food salvaged for local ranches and farmlands.

During the same one-year period, 139,000 pounds of venison were harvested from the wild (98 percent of the animal is used), of which 42,000 pounds were donated to community locations in d ‘food insecurity; that’s about 100,000 meals.

Over the next few months, the team will complete a survey from Ulupalakua to Paia, which is funded by the Maui County Department of Housing and Human Concerns.

“These data will be essential to balance demographic growth in the years to come”, he said.

For more information on Maui Nui Venison, visit maui nuivenison.com.

To learn more about Elemental Excelerator, visit elementalexcelerator.com/.

* Dakota Grossman can be contacted at [email protected]

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