John Kidwell was born January 17, 1849 in the small north Devonshire village of Marwood. At the age of fifteen (in 1864,) he left home to become an apprentice to a second cousin, who was a nurseryman in London. He emigrated to the US in 1872 and became a nurseryman in San Francisco. In 1882, with letters of introduction, Kidwell sailed to Honolulu. At the time, there was great demand for fresh Hawaiian pineapples in San Francisco.
Kidwell started a pineapple farm with locally available plants at Wailele (where Mid-Pacific Institute is situated). The fruit was of poor quality; so he searched for better cultivars, importing 12 ‘Smooth Cayenne’ plants. Kidwell is credited with starting Hawai‘i’s pineapple industry; after his initial planting, others soon realized the potential of growing pineapples in Hawaii and consequently, started their own pineapple plantations. The commercial Hawaiian pineapple canning industry began in 1889 when Kidwell’s business associate, John Emmeluth, a Honolulu hardware merchant and plumber, produced commercial quantities of canned pineapple.