Hawaii has an unlikely farmer: billionaire Larry Ellison. It was just a few years ago in 2018 that he unveiled his hydroponic farm startup, and now, its produce is being sold across the Islands. It all started right after the Oracle founder bought 98% of the Hawaiian island of Lanai in 2012. Ellison took his wife to a hotel restaurant and they found the food to be “inedible.”
“We had to drive to the grocery store in town and buy Snickers bars and Coke,” he told Departures magazine. “We decided that is ridiculous — we need to grow our food.” Ellison floated the notion to his partner, a medical doctor and scientist with expertise in advanced cancer, David Agus. With the belief that food is central to medicine and humanity, the two embarked on a data-driven, technological project that would modernize agriculture.
What resulted is a hydroponic farm, where plants are grown in water rather than soil. It’s located minutes from his Four Seasons Resort luxury retreat, Sensei Lanai, which has wellness programs also guided by technology and science. There are now six hydroponic greenhouses on the island, with a mission to grow fresh food for the people of Hawaii — and Sensei Lanai’s well-heeled visitors.
Ellison and Agus created Sensei Ag, an indoor farming company, capable of growing nearly 1 million pounds of produce yearly under its consumer brand name, Sensei Farms.