Young Saint Lucians Set to Change the Agricultural Sector

News Date: April 01 2018


The Climate Smart Greenhouse created by Jade Hutchinson and Keigan Mayers, both only thirty-six years old, is going to change the reality of food production in Saint Lucia despite the threatening odds of climate change

As most of the public is aware, the infamous Industrial Revolution left the planet with the greenhouse effect and a sky-rocketing rate of climate change. The increasing unpredictability of rainy days in Saint Lucia and the noticeable hurricane intensities in recent seasons are all suspected to be effects of climate change. Just last year, Hurricane Maria toppled some banana trees from a distance and the year prior, farmers were faced with Tropical Storm Matthew. So, this pair of innovators designed the Climate Smart Greenhouse that would inform farmers of what environment plants need in certain climatic conditions. Hutchinson stated at a press conference on March 28, 2018, “It will help people understand farming practices and help people move away from the traditional open-field practices to more suitable practices for climate change.”

In addition, Mayers said, “We came up with this project because Saint Lucia [and the Caribbean] has a very high food import bill.” He explained that the cost of food transportation would increase and availability might decrease because of increasing drought and famine in certain regions.

He continued: “The Caribbean has wonderful, arable soil, great sun and great energy production for agriculture, so we decided to come up with a way to harness that and then increase the output that you get from these plants.

“We can’t compete in the size of a farm but we can compete in the production of, say, one single plant. If we can increase that, we can develop a more stable food industry.”

How will they be able to accomplish that? “Quite basically it’s all about energy manipulation,” said Mayers. The Climate Smart Greenhouse will be a controlled environment where farmers can manipulate the temperature, humidity, energy from sunlight and atmospheric conditions. Through data collection and research technique to be perfected in the piloting phase, Hutchinson and Mayers will be able to create a database and consultancy programme, which will inform farmers when and how to change the conditions as well as soil nutrient content when needed. This will enable more produce and reproduction per plant.

“We have people working, and we have to use our resources, so we’re giving them [farmers] technology that will be affordable, that is scalable to their needs and that gives them the output that they need,” Mayers said.

Hutchinson added: “Off their phones the farmer can now actually get all that information. You wake up in the morning, you know what your farm’s like and you can then automate the actions from your bed.”

Increased production from the Climate Smart Greenhouse will simultaneously increase farmers’ income. The combination of technology, farming and income is projected to attract young persons and investors into the agricultural industry enabling greater food security in Saint Lucia and the Caribbean.

Part of the funding for the project will be US$50,000 by the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Program of the United Nations Development Program. The national program coordinator on island, Giles Romulus, expressed, “We must understand, you don’t fix up a roof when there’s a hurricane or when the hurricane is on you, but you have to prepare before the hurricane comes. What is happening there, those young men are bringing to us a new way of agriculture before the variables of climate change become unsupportable.”

Yvonne Agard, the executive director of Saint Lucia Coalition of Service Industries (SLCSI) added, “The budget is US$104,000; GEF’s contribution is US$50,000. We need to be able to raise the other US$54,000 in kind contribution so we are also inviting other investors and co funders to participate in this innovative project.”

The SLCSI encouraged partners Jade Hutchinson and Keigan Mayers, through varying programmes, to develop and create the project. Its part in the Climate Smart Greenhouse is to ensure that all parties involved maintain responsibility and to ensure the project’s success.

Hutchinson and Mayers intend to make a template of the project, which will be available for adoption for any farmer once it is successful

News Source: The St. Lucia Star
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