A community hydroponic farming project with solar energy in Jamaica boosted by the IDEAS Competition

 Thanks to the publicity generated by the IDEAS Contest, a Jamaican community project of hoop-framed greenhouses on the land of small farmers has significantly expanded, while making key contacts with both with private sector and government.

 

The Family Garden’s community project, one of the eight IDEAS 2012 competition winners, seeks to provide employment and income in rural communities in Jamaica. The project helps by allowing the community to grow their own products and also becoming entrepreneurs. The goals of this project are also to stop bad farming practices such as “slash and burn”, to facilitate technology transfer, provide training and increase food security.

The Family Garden is owned by husband and wife team Harry and Rebecca Harper. Rebecca is the driving force behind the project and speaks with conviction about its goals and targets.

The project will see the construction of hoop-framed greenhouses on the land of small farmers in the community. The greenhouses will help the community grow various herbs using hydroponics which will then be sold to hotels, restaurants and supermarkets. Photovoltaic panels will also be installed to power the pumps which circulate the nutrient mixture used for hydroponics.

The family-run business started in September 2011 with one greenhouse. Since being awarded £71,924 thus far through the IDEAS Contest, two additional greenhouses have been built in the family’s property, another four have been built in the land of three other families in the community as well as one the community’s primary school.

The company has been able to hire ten employees (both full and part-time) and is looking to hire more in 2013. So far 4kW of Photovoltaic systems have been installed on some of the greenhouses with more expected in the coming months.

The company has already been able to harvest some of their produce and the community is already benefitting from the initiative.
 

Kirmeth Johnson, one of the Farm Hands is also grateful  to be able to earn a living where he lives, “I no longer have to leave the community to find work.,” he says and this is a great benefit for me and my family”.

The project participants and the wider community have acquired new skill and knowledge through the training workshops, which have been held on the mechanics of hydroponic farming. Leighton Waterman, the GVEP Caribbean Project Manager who’s been working alongside with the Contest winners explains that “ in addition to the grant funding, the IDEAS winners receive technical and business development support to implement or scale up their ideas. The goal is to enable them to turn their ideas into financially sustainable businesses, helping solve the energy problems facing the region.” New businesses, such as cook-shops, are also starting in the community, as a result of this.

Following  the publicity received at the IDEAS award ceremony in August 2012, the Family Garden has made new connections in both the government and private sector. They have recently been approached by various entities to set up more hydroponic greenhouses in communities outside of the project area.

“The project has started off on a good note and it is hoped that it will continue to progress and meet all of its goals”, says Mr Waterman. The IDEAS sponsors are in the process of working with the Family Garden to get a consultant to assist them in obtaining the certification which will allow them to export to the US market and offer them broader development perspectives.
 

More information on the Family Garden can be found at  The Family Garden.

Photo of Rebecca Harper, courtesy of The Family Garden.

IDEAS is an Energy Innovation Contest to support the development of innovative projects promoting renewable energies, and improving energy efficiency. This round of the contest was targeted specifically at the Caribbean, with financial support provided by UKAid.