Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Indar Weir, wants to see more Barbadians engaged in freight farming and making use of technology.
The appeal came yesterday as he addressed participants at the opening of the Second Cohort Training of the Farmers’ Empowerment and Enfranchisement Drive (FEED), at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Two Mile Hill, St. Michael.
While pointing out there were various systems of farming, which the FEED programme aimed to explore, he said: “I want to say to you and to all Barbadians, not enough of you are coming forward to participate in freight farming where you can place a freight farm any place in Barbados, including at the side of your house, and control it by either your mobile phone, your iPad, a tablet, your laptop or desk top.”
The Minister, who further explained that freight farming was typically referred to as a container farm, said it entailed taking a 40-foot container and retrofitting it with chillers, lights, water systems and the necessary fertilisers and nitrates. He also noted that predominantly it was about growing leafy vegetables, such as varieties of lettuce, Chinese cabbages and broccoli.
Adding that with freight farming there was little risk of praedial larceny, Mr. Weir said this type of farm would be controlled solely by the person, in terms of entry and exit, and the turn-around time was faster. Of the latter, he stressed to participants: “Your time to harvest is almost 50 per cent less than what it would take in regular open field farming and that equally, your yields are greater because you are not then subjected to a lot of pests and crop diseases.
“And, more importantly you are not affected by climate change where droughts can impact your entire crop production because it’s less water intensive, and it is a revolving system.
“So that, you are not looking for cubic metres upon cubic metres of water daily simply because of these systems.”
In an interview with media representatives, Minister Weir outlined that production could be ramped up if more Barbadians used this method, especially in the urban and peri-urban corridors of Barbados where these areas “don’t have the tracts of lands that would be available in the country side”.
The Agriculture Minister also disclosed that with the freight farms, where technology was utilised, interested persons could engage the Agricultural Development Fund (ADF) and access funding to have a freight farm on a lease-to- own basis, as this was part of the FEED programme. “What would happen is, the ADF would underwrite the cost of the farm; get you set up; and then there would be an arrangement in place for you to pay back over a period of time for the farm, just similar to how you do rent-to-own housing,” he explained.
The Minister also lamented that not many people were involved in greenhouse farming, where they would have greater control using the same revolving system. He emphasised that the use of technology in the FEED programme was an aspect planned by the Ministry and it was done “to transition minds to technology in farming”.
Urging the near 200 participants to take advantage of the online training, Mr. Weir said the time was right to make sure everybody was on board as it relates to technology in farming. “I believe the time has come for us to also now raise the bar and move to the next level. That being the case, we have already commissioned a greenhouse farm at the BADMC, so that this would be part of your training,” he stressed.