Symbrosia x Iwi Nails: Limu Kohu

Meet Alexia & Heather from Symbrosia - a clean tech company based in Kona, Hawaii. We collaborated on a super cute, nature inspired nail called Limu Kohu. Learn more about the environmental work that Symbrosia does and the inspiration behind the design below:

(find the transcript at the bottom of the page) 




30% of profits from this Limu Kohu design will go to support the work of Kupa ʻĀina o Keauhou. Learn more about their work below:

(find the transcript at the bottom of the page)  
Symbrosia x Iwi Nails Transcript:

Hi, my name is Heather, I'm from Kona, and my role at Symbrosia is people and culture lead. 

 My name is Alexia, I'm originally from the east coast of the U. S., and I'm the CEO at Symbrosia. 

 We're a clean tech company and we started because some researchers found out that when you feed a species of seaweed,  known as limu kohu or asparagopsis taxiformis to livestock, it reduces their greenhouse gas emissions dramatically.

This research was started in 2016 and since then we've created a company around scaling this resource and providing it to farmers here in Hawaii and also across the United States to help create greener and more climate friendly vegan dairy products. 

 We grow a native, species of limu kohu to Hawaii and we've, build a seed bank of over 500 different strains from across the Hawaiian Islands.  And from there, we selected the ones that grew the best in the aquaculture setting. So that's kind of like agriculture, but in water.

And then we grow it here at OTEC, in Kona using kind of tank system, seawater, and the sun to grow it. And then we harvest and process it on land. And pelletize it into a feed for cattle. 

 What inspired it (the design) was what's essential to grow our limu, so the water, the sun.  I also used some designs from a designer that we used in Hilo, Prowlanu, we used his limu kohu design on there. And then one of my favorites The cowgirl boot that represents our partner farmers and as well as the cow print. 

 Yeah, I think that ranchers are understanding how important it is to consumers for their products to not only have a transparent supply chain, but also be produced sustainably. And so this is one solution for them to provide what the customer is looking for.

But we also know that limu is a really healthy food source for humans  and also for livestock. So we're seeing a number of different improvements on the animal nutrition side. They're able to utilize their food better basically. And that also results in an upside for the farmer. So we're really trying to find the balance of like, okay, how do they produce this sustainably without adding any additional burden or costs to their operations or their bottom line. 

 We are at the NELHA facility. It's in the ahupuaa Kalaoa. This facility has kind of been zoned off as an aquaculture facility now for about 40 years. There's other limu growers in this facility that grow like ogo, for example.

There's also kampachi, oysters,  mussels, other shellfish growers. So, it's really a hub for local agriculture, aquaculture, and food source. And it's been a really good location for us to scale as well because these resources are available for folks that are looking to grow aquaculture crops. 

 So something that's really important to us is bringing more awareness to what we're growing, why we're growing it and also getting  the future generations involved.

So, you know, education and volunteering.  And making it known to the high schoolers here that you can have a career here in Kona and make a huge difference on the future of our earth. And so that's something that we're looking into more ways that we can get more involved and we host different schools on site and educate them on that and just kind of get them inspired to, you know, Go to school for it as well because Hilo offers an  aquaculture program there.

 So once we started this project more officially here and we began building our seed bank, we also interfaced with a lot of the local community. So, like just coastal stewards and people have spent a lot of time examining the coastlines at this beach.

Limu Kohu directly translates to the supreme seaweed. So under the Kapu system, it was reserved for royalty and it was a really prized  seaweed. We also learned that over the past couple of decades through up coast development that these seaweed populations started to decline.

They weren't available as much to local communities. And so from there we started a Limu restoration project. So from our seed bank, we're working with a couple of different coastal organizations, a lot of aloha aina groups as well, to try to figure out how to replant which is a lot more difficult to grow than like local or some of the ones that they have been using.

So that's been a really interesting project and inviting those folks to our facilities as well, or completely transparent, you know, about what we're doing with the resource and can answer any questions.  So that's been an interesting project and still in the early phases, but we're trying to figure out how to get more resources to that project so it can really like start to take off.

 Before this, I was in the coffee industry. So I have no science background or any climate background. And so it was very scary and I kind of always glamorized the climate industry as something that I always wanted to be a part of, but seemed untouchable.

But you really just have to put yourself out there and. Go for it and  put in the work to get there and it's possible like she hired me with no experience in climate or anything. So yeah, just put yourself out there, get involved, make connections. Yeah, just go for it. 

 And I think, you know, Heather had the mindset of like being willing to learn and being willing to kind of take on multiple roles and just do needed to happen to make this possible.

And I think That's something that's really important. I get asked a lot, like, how do you transition into climate, and I can give, like, practical advice, like, go to these websites and look for jobs, but I think, ultimately, at this choice, like, working for the land and working for your community is not a luxury, it is a necessity, and if you're not doing that , I think you really need to reconsider what your priorities are, and, and just start pulling your weight, and, I've, in the past, I've been,  more prescriptive, but at this point I'm just like, what are you doing if you're not like, figure out how to get into this industry. 

  I  think the design is really fun. I think it, in our business, it's been interesting trying to merge like, aquaculture and climate with like,  paniolo culture.

Yeah. I think this design really does that, and Heather did a great job of fusing the two, and yeah, so it feels like a fusion design, but it's a lot of fun.  

 Partnership really requires a lot of creativity. I think the  capacity of a partnership to like produce something way more than the two organizations is such an exciting concept. And then you kind of have that space to propose. really wild  ideas.

So I think like, don't be minimal about like the potential of a partnership and like really get creative about it. I think that's why Heather's really good in her role as like people culture lead to because it does require a lot of community partnership. I would think that was some advice just kind of like go for the craziest that you can think of and then just make it  happen.

But usually it works. 

Yeah, I would say it definitely does require creativity and  two willing sides. Like I thought it was awesome that you even reached out to us and wanted to do that, especially because it's such a male dominated industry and clients. In cattle ranching and as well as aquaculture. But as you know, like we have a lot of women on our team and we're very much into promoting — Boss bitch. Yeah. Yes. Yeah, so, we are in a very male dominated industry with cattle ranching and science and as well as aquaculture. It's a very male dominated industry, but we do have a lot of women on our team. And so I think with Iwi nails, which is a perfect partnership because you can be serious, like without having to sacrifice like fashion or anything like that.

So, yeah, we're very excited about this partnership


Kākoʻo Kupa ʻĀina o Keauhou Transcript:

Aloha kakou. My name is Kaleiolani Haanio Pasciuta. I am a member with Kupa Aina o Keauhou. We are a nonprofit, we're dedicated to the preservation and perpetuation of the history and culture of Keauhou Bay.

 This is a Keauhou ahupuaa altogether. There's a lot of Sacred places here. A lot of our history is stored within this beautiful ahupuaa. As a lineal descendant, I saw the need for continuation of the education. My family's been in Keauhou since the 1700s. We've fished and farmed and taken care of some of the sacred places that are here in Keauhou. Keauhou is home to the longest holua slide in all of Hawaii. It's also home to the birthplace of Kauikeaouli, Kamahemeha III. There's springs and ponds and native opae and limu and just all the native things here that are becoming victim to some of the activities that are happening in the bay So we're just striving to make sure that the stories don't get overlooked. The history and the kanaka maoli and the kupa aina of this area doesn't get overlooked by the new activities that are happening within the bay 

 We work with local residents. We work with businesses that operate within Keauhou Bay. We teach educational classes to their employees so that they, when they come to work, they understand the place in which they're coming to. They can be here in reverence and continue that education and share that with any of the visitors that are coming here and taking any of their snorkel tours. Or their boating adventures. 

 The perpetuation of the education is important. Without the stories, without the education of  what was here before, all of that will be lost and it will just be another place with a name on a map. 

We work with other non profits within the area to make sure that these places aren't lost. We offer free classes. Everything that we do is free. Whoever wants to sign up and join us, it's free. 

So growing up down here, I slowly saw how some of the space was getting taken over, and there wasn't that access to come down to fish, to throw net, and just to hold space on aina to connect yourself again. I saw that gone. Most of the, all of the land in Keauhou oceanfront is owned by private landowners or state agencies. So advocating for a piece of property that would be open space and accessible to the community. allows Kupa Aina, Kamaaina to come back and be on aina again, to continue to perpetuate Hawaiian culture and activities.

Practice the language, practice our fishing, practice our crafts.  That was, that was gone and advocating for that was really important was our main goal in creating this organization. 

So when I first started doing the educational work and working with people that are in this, working in and out of this bay every day, a lot of people were unaware that the small pebble beach on the south side of Keauhou Bay was named Kailiilinehi. A lot of people just thought this was Keauhou  Bay, but that one specific beach area was very famous.

 There is a song written after the beautiful sound that the stones made. So that was one of the big educational points that I strive to get across to people that are in this space every day, that this place is so special. It's not just one  place on a map, but there are stories that are associated with all these small places.

And with that, to help them remember. why these places within this bay were special. I told stories of people who lived here back in the early 1800s and the 1900s and really brought  a face to the place or a story to the place.  There's a spring that's on the north side of the bay,  that was famous for opae.  It was, some people said that was the queen's bath.  There's the famous birthing stone from Kamehameha III,  Kauikeaouli, he was stillborn. And he was brought back to life by the Kahu Kapihei.  He was bathed in the spring water and  hōkūkū-ed on the stone  and brought back to life. 

And that birthstone is here in Keauhou. A lot of people drive right past it, don't realize that it's there. And to remind everyone that when they walk past this area or come to this area, that is some place that they should walk with and step into with reverence and respect.

 We advocated with the county to get a piece of property bought and purchased for community use.  My goal is to was to have that available for anyone to just come down and use, but also to have a space to continue the education of this area, continue the perpetuation of the history and the culture and the stories of the Kupaaina that thrived in this ahupuaa and made it a working ahupuaa for hundreds of years.

 So in the future, I hope to continue to have educational classes down here and just really have it as a community educational corridor kind of space. For that to continue to happen. I would love to see wa'a down here a fishing wa'a or even like sailing wa'a as part of one of the educational tools to use to educate people about this area.

My grandmother told me a really beautiful story. Her father and some of the other kupuna from this area would load up their canoes. And they would sail their canoe all the way down to Makalawena. It was known, Makalawena was known for their salt beds. So they would load up, they would take hookupu from this area, whatever they needed at that time, whether it was breadfruit or a certain type of fish.

Keauhou is very well known for their akule schools,  kalo from over here, dry land, kalo from over here. They would load up their wa'a and sail all the way to Makalawena. They would stay there for a few days, trade in offerings and gift and load up with their salt and sail back to Keauhou Bay.

Keauhou's a small boat harbor and it really is not that big but there's so many vessels that it has reached its maximum capacity for use. And at this point, I feel like there needs to be stronger regulations on the use of this bay. Not only for the protection of the species that live in here, but also for use of the community.  My grandmother told me how  she used to get oysters. And there was an oyster bed over here. It has since been paved over.  But who's to say that that wouldn't come back, should that paving be removed and or if there was just less industrial traffic.  I know the motors create noise pollution as well as just pollution within the water. And to see some of that removed or the reduction of that might really help to bring life back into the bay. 

When tours first started happening in the bay, I don't think there was very much environmental concern for anything that was happening. But my grandmother, first seeing that this stuff was impacting the bay, she advocated for the clean use of these industries that were happening in the bay. 

 So whether it be cleaning their boats with whatever type of chemicals or solvents they were using. It was going into the ocean and she directly went to these businesses and tried to educate them and ask them to use more environmentally friendly solvents to clean whatever tools, their vessel, whatever they were doing and using within the bay and how it was affecting the bay.

Also there is a golf course that was built mauka of the bay.  And she was very vocal about the runoff and how it affected the reef down here.  Growing up down here, she was well aware of the fish and the limu that were growing here. And through the use of this bay and the runoff from the golf course, a lot of that stuff isn't here anymore.

The only way we'll get that back is if we start cleaning it up and really  working forward with the thought of how do we protect what we have and somehow revive it back to what it was before. I actually have the old newspaper articles because she saved everything. For a while, there was someone who was trying to come in here, south side of the bay, between Keauhou  Bay and the Kuamoo battlefield, they were trying to put an artificial reef in. And she advocated very hard against that. 

There wasn't enough education and studies being done to see how that would affect Keauhou Bay and the fish. At one point I think they were even talking of just sinking a vessel and what that would look like, and how that would affect Keauhou  Bay.  She advocated  to stop that and there wasn't enough  studies done to see the long term effects of how that would  And at that point with the building of the connoisseur, which is now the outrigger Sheraton and all the boats that were now coming in and flooding this small little bay, nothing was being done to prevent overuse and  also to  protect the livelihoods of the fishermen.

So my great grandfather was a fisherman and Keauhou Bay was well known for their akule schools and just fish in the fishing community and with the introduction of these new industries, the local fishermen and the local people just coming down here to catch food for their family was being overrun.

Like a lot of people growing up in Hawaii,  we are encouraged to go off and find education within the United States

so after going off and going to college and returning back home and walking back in this space,  unfortunately, I felt very unwelcome.  Some of the things that are  in Keauhou  Bay  are not welcoming to Kamaaina  or even Hawaiian culture and activities as much as they might, they might on the outside look like it is something of Hawaii. 

I was not welcomed by  some of the things that were here. And I really saw the lack of space. For Kamaaina, the lack of respect for Kupaaina, the lack of respect for native Hawaiians, that there is no space here. And the new  entities that are within the bay, it's all kind of like, no trespassing, keep out.

This is my space, where this was all community space before. This was all, this was the ahupuaa and you work the ahupuaa, you live the ahupuaa. Within this ahupuaa, whether you farmed or you fished or you were here for recreation, that was all available to you. 

 And now new entities come in and they make it unavailable to you, but they want your aloha and they want your stories.

They want to share your stories of what made this place so special, yet they don't want you to come in and be a part of it. I saw that. 

I  saw, I was personally victimized. By being in this area as if I wasn't welcomed here when my family's been here for generations and I still reside in this ahupuaa.  So I saw the need to create the space so that people no longer feel unwelcome on their own  aina in their own space, in their own ahupuaa. 

If you're interested in learning more about the history and the culture of Keauhou , we do have educational workshops. We'd love to have you join us, participate in an ocean activity or in aina activity.

 You can find us on social media. We're on Instagram. @kupaainaokeauhou. We have a website, email us, find us on social media, contact us, come out, join us.

We'd love to have you be a part and  continue to perpetuate the beautiful culture and the history of not only Keauhou but Hawai'i.

 I met Alexia with Symbrosia through the canoe club that I belong to, Kaiopua Canoe Club, and through just our journey as wa'a sisters, I shared with her what I was doing here and she let me know what she was doing with Limu kohu, which I thought was beautiful. 

We slowly started just sharing our stories with each other and she came down to Keauhou  and I shared with her the stories of this place and she was very moved by what was happening down here and I was also interested in the limu project that she was doing. I want to bring some of that down here. We are missing some of the limu here.

So we are just in talks of creating an educational program down here, bringing in Symbrosia and the work they do to grow limu to see if we can, we can revive some of the limu in this area. 

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