Hydroponics Model Offers Multisectoral Benefits

Basseterre, St. Kitts, March 10, 2016 (SKNIS): The climate-smart hydroponic farming currently being practiced at the Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College (CFBC) has been hailed as a model that promotes economic and agricultural self sufficiency in St. Kitts and Nevis.

Economist and CFBC Director of Institutional Development, Hugh Heyliger, praised the college’s Research and Hydroponics Scientist, Stuart LaPlace, for his dedication to the project which involves growing above-ground crops using mineral nutrient solutions. On Wednesday’s edition of “Working for You,” Mr. Heyliger said the concept offers multi-sectoral spinoffs.

“We are looking at our food import bill – how much foreign exchange we are losing,” Mr. Heyliger stated. He mentioned that local initiatives are in place to encourage local farmers to sell their produce to hotels and restaurants, however, concerns persist about reliability, the quantity and quality of supplies.

“We will be dealing with this,” Mr. Heyliger stated, adding that officials from the Ministries of Education, Tourism, Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Affairs as well as representatives from the Chamber of Industry and Commerce and the Hotel and Tourism Association (HTA) will be engaged in the process.

The hydroponics method is also considered to be a practical tool for secondary and tertiary students in agriculture.

“We are already discussing this with the Honourable Minister of Education (Shawn Richards),” Mr. Heyliger said, noting that the minister is “excited” about the project. “If we can put down a shade house at each one of these high schools (and) they grow specific crops … the schools can get an income and you begin to get the students involved to understand that they can become entrepreneurs.” Also, persons engaged in the People Employment Programme (PEP) will be targeted.

“Instead of going to look a job from somebody, they become their own employers,” he added. “You [can] develop cooperatives. They can go in the shade house early in the morning, in the afternoon or whatever … but the important thing is you are building capacity.”

As part of the outreach, Mr. Heyliger said convicted persons and other at-risk youth can benefit from the income generation project which can assist in their rehabilitation.

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