Vincent Kimura, CEO, Inovi Green, Smart Yields
Buying local is easier said than done, considering much of Hawai‘i’s farmland has endured decades of monocropping and other industrial farming practices. After talking with local farmers, Vincent Kimura learned that poor soil quality was affecting crop quality and productivity. So any solution to increase locally grown produce must also address the soil.
In answer to Hawai‘i’s scary dependence on imported food, Kimura brought to market a range of crop-nutrition products from biotechnology manufacturer AgriGro, featuring a proprietary blend of microbes that improve soil condition, produce quality and crop yields. The best part? The microbes can be produced locally. AgriGro is just one of the many solutions that Kimura’s company, Inovi Green, has commercialized in Hawai‘i. The company first started supplying aqueous ozone, a chemical-free alternative to chlorine and other toxic cleaning products, and now offers 15 different products to farmers, suppliers, distributors, public and private schools, hotels, hospitals, city and state agencies.
Inovi Green has grown quickly thanks to Kimura’s ability to bring cutting-edge technologies to market, and he’s since started a second company, Smart Yields, to analyze, predict and alert farmers to environmental conditions affecting their crops. “The idea for Smart Yields was born from listening to farmers’ frustrations and the desire to find out what was causing the inconsistent yields,” Kimura says.
So he brought together a team of experts in telemetry, database management and user interface to provide farmers with a mobile and desktop app that monitors soil moisture, temperature, pH and more so they know the exact conditions they’re dealing with. Sensors send real-time data about the conditions of the farm to a dashboard, allowing farmers to make informed decisions and giving them more control over farm health. “Smart Yields helps take the guesswork out of farming and focuses more on the science of growing,” Kimura says. Mari’s Gardens, an aquaponics farm in Mililani, was the first in Hawai‘i to experiment with Smart Yields.
“I’m the type of person who knows he’s not the smartest person in the room, so I surround myself with smarter people,” Vince says. “If you have smart people, you have a platform that encourages open ideas, and you’ll have the environment for innovation and less risks through the whole process.” Kimura’s approach and global perspective can be traced to his international cultural and business background. Born in Hawai‘i and raised across Asia in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, Kimura graduated with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Oregon State before interning with the Pacific Basin Economic Council in Hong Kong. After distinguishing himself in a variety of international business environments, Kimura earned an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University and went on to found Inovi Green in 2010.
As CEO of both Inovi Green LLC and Smart Yields Inc., Kimura wears many hats. At Inovi Green, he guides strategic direction and handles business development and client satisfaction with vision, tenacity and adaptability. At Smart Yields, he leads strategic growth, getting his jeans dirty with future clients and switching to aloha attire midday to pitch investors on the company’s vision. “As CEO, my strategy is one, cheerleader, and two, flag-bearer,” Kimura says. “I’m managing risk, I’m the janitor cleaning toilets—I do whatever it takes to get the job done. No matter what, it has to get done, and if no one else does it, I have to.”
Kimura also set up mentoring and internship programs at Inovi Green and Smart Yields to give high school, college and graduate students hands-on experience in establishing and operating a contracting business. “My ultimate goal is to open their eyes to the option of working for themselves and to help them decide if running their own company is something they want to do,” Kimura says.Bernice Kiyo Glenn, senior advisor at the National Security Technology Accelerator, has known Kimura since he was a student at Hawai‘i Pacific University and has witnessed his passion for sustainability, Hawai‘i and its farming community develop over the years. “He has been able to blend his technical expertise in environmental science with his innate talent in solving problems for clients and mentoring his team members, while bringing to bear his decades of working knowledge of business in Asia, the U.S. and the Pacific,” Glenn says. “He does this all with great humanity and respect for others, in a style that I once thought was gone in Hawai‘i. He is a true gentleman and thoughtful leader. His trajectory is steady and upward, inspiring me to envision his leadership of projects throughout the Indo-Pacific region and on the mainland U.S., while he remains committed to the future of Hawai‘i.”