4 minutes with… Will Steiner, General Manager, Hawaii Oil Seed Producers

36e8f4fTell us about your company and it’s role in the Advanced Bioeconomy.

HOSPRO is dedicated to battle the 95+% import of petroleum for energy and electricity generation by promoting the development of tree based oil seed crops. We are focusing on oil palm a proven producer in SE Asia. A University based proof of concept study based on 10,000 imported seeds grown to trees proved the trees will grow and produce in HI.

Tell us about your role and what you are focused on in the next 12 months.

The five year proof of concept study trees were farmed out to participating small holder farmers. The trees now are producing fruit and a USDA grant has been awarded to purchase an oil extraction mill and other grants are being sought to begin expansion. Since Hawaii also import all cooking oil and animal feed, We envision a production system that will not only produce fuel, cooking oil and animal feed but also integrated crops since our studies show cacao, coffee and tea can be grown between the trees. Working with the agro-tourism industry, we believe agricultural agro-tourism will benefit small farmers growing oil palm as well as it will demonstrate how Hawaii approaches sustainability and conservation by placing tens of thousands of abandoned sugar cane lands back into production. In the next 12 months we hope to produce our first cooking oil and biodiesel and establish the technology to be used for producing palm based oil.

What do you feel are the most important milestones the industry must achieve in the next 5 years?  

Demonstrate at least 400 gallons or more of oil/acre, test more hybrid trees to expand oil production, and expand the system to more than the 120 acres currently planted and producing.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the Advanced Bioeconomy, what would you change? 

Establishment of a solid petroleum production base so we know what we have to compete with, and reduction of he reluctance of investors.

Of all the reasons that influenced you to join the Advanced Bioeconomy industry, what single reason stands out for you as still being compelling and important to you?  

Global Climate Warming reduction, creating new jobs and cost of petroleum based energy.

Where are you from? 

I was born in Honolulu Hawaii, grew up on the family’s grain, hay and cattle ranch in Southwest Idaho.

What was your undergraduate major in college, and where did you attend? Why did you choose that school and that pathway?

I obtained an Associate of Science from Boise State University and my BS (Zoology) and Ph.D (Genetics) at University of Hawaii (Manoa). Later I earned a Systems Engineering Equivalency certificate from the USDA Graduate School while working as an ARS scientist. I worked in Genetics research for 22 years before moving into administration.

Who do you consider your mentors – could be personal, business, or just people you have read about and admire. What have you learned from them?

My mentors have been other scientists who taught me the necessity of building solid scientific foundations when seeking answers to questions that interested me. Key among these was the National Academy of Sciences member Dr. Hampton Carson (deceased) who served also as my Dissertation advisor examining the effects of environmental change on genetic systems. Another was the scientist and medical geneticist Dr. James Kitzmiller who taught me that making science fun helped focus attention and launched my career into examining genetic system behavior in different environments in countries like Brazil, Venezuela, the former Guiana colonies, Greece, Hungary, France, Italy, SE Asia, Japan and many island systems in the Pacific.

What’s the biggest lesson you ever learned during a period of adversity?  

To persevere.

What hobbies do you pursue, away from your work in the industry?

I write poetry and music and am self-taught on guitar. I have written over 200 songs and have published some of my poetry. I also have over 90 scientific publications and one book to my credit.

What are 3 books you’d want to have with you, if you were stranded on a desert island

Wilbur Smith’s latest novel, Lee Child’s latest novel, and Science the Journal of the American Association Advances in Science.

What books or articles are on your reading list right now, or you just completed and really enjoyed?  

Too many to list but an avid reader of Science articles and The Digest.

What’s your favorite city or place to visit, for a holiday?

Italy and Rome, Bangkok and Thailand.

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