Board of Directors
Gunars Valkirs - President
Gunars Valkirs is a scientist who co-founded a successful medical diagnostics company in San Diego. After selling the company in 2007, Gunars could afford to move to Maui and retire. However, retirement did not suit his nature and he began to grow cacao, first as part of the UH Manoa field trial. He then chose to start a 50-acre cacao farm in Lahaina, Maui Ku‘ia Estate Cacao. Realizing that the economics of selling cocoa beans was not going to be sustainable, he decided to build a chocolate factory and start another company, Maui Ku‘ia Estate Chocolate LLC. Gunars is busy planning the building after securing a half-acre commercial lot in Lahaina near the farm.
Victor Renaghan - Vice President
Victor Renaghan is a Founding Member of the Hawaii Cacao & Chocolate Association and is interested in making Cacao – from plant to end product – a viable and safe industry for the State of Hawaii. He has entered the chocolate end-product manufacturing & private labeling business with spouse Virginia A. Douglas as “Kokolani Chocolates” of Kailua, HI.
Mr. Renaghan is an experienced Federal Government representative serving the Customs and Border Protection as Director, Management Analysis, Port Director, Senior Representative (Treasury) Hong Kong,– covering Federal international investigations and commodity/revenue market studies and did homeland security and anti-terror analytical work for USCBP, San Francisco. He has served as an Advisor to the World Bank, U.S.A.I.D., U.S. Interior Department (Territorial Affairs) and Treasury advisor in the fields of intelligence, anti-crime, anti-corruption, and revenue improvement for the governments of Indonesia, Vietnam, American Samoa, and for U.S. embassies in many countries, as well as being an anti-smuggling and management information systems instructor for Israili, Philippine and Thailand customs services.
He is a graduate of Northeastern University, has completed graduate work at the University of Massachusetts and Harvard University, and over 40 continuing education courses in areas such as metropolitan revenues, financing and operations, lobbying and time management. He is also a U.S. Army veteran.
Maria Carl - Secretary and Communications Chair
Maria Carl (Rogers) is an HCCA Board Member and serves as the Secretary and Communications Chair for the HCCA. She and her husband, Michael Rogers, are co-owners of 21 Degrees Estate Cacao Farm in Kahalu’u, on O’ahu’s windward coast. Maria is a retired Air Force officer and, before entering the cacao and chocolate business, spent most of her career as a corporate Communications and Marketing Executive. 21 Degrees Estate is a mid-sized cacao farm and includes approximately 500 cacao trees at varying levels of maturity and harvest production as well as multiple tropical fruits, flowers, nuts and plants. There are organic laying hens and over sic honeybee hives for honey production resident on the property as well. The farm is set to begin agri-tours and cacao-related events beginning in January 2017. Follow on Facebook at 21 Degrees Estate Cacao Farm or www.21degreesestate.com
Mānoa Chocolate Hawaii is a Hawaiian chocolate maker; a bean-to-bar chocolate factory located in Kailua on the island of Oahu. In Hawaiian language, mānoa is a descriptor meaning, "thick, solid, vast; depth" and refers to the depth of flavor and complexity found in dark chocolate. Founder and Chocolate Maker, Dylan Butterbaugh was born and raised on Oahu and started the factory in his home town. While still in college, Dylan was exposed to small-batch chocolate making at the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture where his friend was researching the potential for theobroma cacao cultivation in Hawaii. By lending a hand in the lab and witnessing the process of setting up micro-ferments, roasting beans and tempering bars, he became fascinated with the art and craft of transforming cacao beans into dark chocolate. Upon graduation in 2010, he launched the company with a focus on developing a Hawaiian cacao industry. In addition to sourcing beans from emerging growers throughout the Hawaiian Islands, Manoa Chocolate Hawaii is passionate about producing ethically sourced single origin chocolate from around the world.
Dan Corson is an HCCA Board member and wears lots of hats at his Hāmākua Chocolate Farm. Prior to moving to Hawaii Island, Corson was a nationally recognized public artist creating award-winning sculptures and installations around the US and internationally. The focus of the Hāmākua Chocolate Farm, besides growing excellent cacao and making small-batch, artfully designed chocolate, is directed towards cacao education, chocolate experiences and Ag tourism. Located just North of Hilo and beautifully situated on a stream, Hāmākua Chocolate Farm is 6.5 acres, has 550 trees in production (and more to come) and is planted with many rare and unusual tropical plants. Hāmākua in the Hawaiian Language translates to the “breath of the gods/ancestors”(referring to the mild trade winds that bring our nightly rains) which we particularly liked as the latin for Theobroma cacao is literally “the food of the gods”.
Dr. Skip Bittenbender - Advisor
Dr. HC “Skip” Bittenbender received his BS in Biology (1972) at Western Michigan University and MS (1974) and Ph.D.(1977) in Horticulture at Michigan State University. His PhD research was done at Gadja Mada University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia on rice. His postdoc was International Institute for Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria (also rice- paddy and upland). Working with the US Agency of International Development, he chaired the Plant Science Department at the Institute for Agriculture and Animal Sciences in Nepal. He has been an extension specialist in the Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Science, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the University of Hawaii at Manoa since 1986. His on-farm, coffee variety evaluation and mechanized pruning research contributed to the rapid expansion of Hawaii's coffee industry in the 1990's. He enjoys drinking kava and led a USDA grant to investigate the effects of farm practices on kavalactone yields and coordinates CTAHR's Kava research groups as part of Hawaii's Kava renaissance. His current assignment is coordinating UH research and extension (outreach) activities for coffee, cacao, and kava. Since 2005 he has been working to develop the cacao to chocolate industry. Our goal is creating the world’s chocolate flavors in the islands using genetics, environment, management, fermentation, roasting and blending. He developed a lab/hobby scale system to ferment cacao and make small batches of chocolate. His 10 experimental ‘selections’ are growing across the state; taste evaluation is underway. He demonstrated that orchard establishment can be done by planting seed in the orchard. He help develop the Hawaii-grown cacao and chocolate labeling rules.
Dan O'Doherty - Advisor
Amy is President of Special Events Hawaii a leading marketing, advertising and event planning firm handling events such as the Made in Hawaii Festival, Hawaii Book and Music Festival and the Kailua Town Party. In 2008 she was asked to join the Governor's Task Force on the Hawaii Cacao Industry where she recommended establishing a festival and in 2011 she founded the Hawaii Chocolate Festival. Amy was the catalyst for the formation of the Hawaii Chocolate and Cacao Association by hosting industry leaders at the state legislature providing a forum for stakeholders to discuss the formation of an organization. She is also responsible for the designation of February as Hawaii-Grown Cacao Month, the production of a Hawaiian Airlines in-flight video promoting Cacao that reaches millions, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser front page coverage entitled "Cacao" and is a strong industry advocate. Continuing her childhood passion as chocolatier she creates chocolate for just for fun under the label Aloha Chocolate Company by Kealoha. She is a volunteer for HCCA overseeing many aspects of the organization. Amy is a founding member of the HCCA.