While Barbados has long had an intimate relationship with the agricultural industry, active participation has slowly diminished over the years, mainly due to a lack of technology and an absence of innovative development. However, with the advent of global food supply shortages and increased shipping costs, there has been a significant shift towards implementing new growing techniques such as hydroponics, aquaponics and aeroponics. When I saw what was being achieved with remote farming all around the world, I wanted to make that happen here in Barbados as well.
Roughly five years ago, despite not having any previous farming experience, I set out on a mission to produce more food locally using sustainable techniques. What I lacked in experience I made up for with lots of research, enthusiasm, energy, and a genuine passion to help Barbados reduce our food import bill and achieve food security. Working with two early partners, we established Ino-Gro Inc and founded a hydroponic farm agribusiness, operating out of a refurbished 40ft shipping container.
Hydroponics basically allows for the plant to take the exact amount of water and nutrients solution required without stressing the crop. In addition, given that the environment inside the container can be controlled to suit the specific needs of the plant, it creates very balanced conditions for the crop to flourish and produce fresh, healthy, locally-grown food year-round in a sustainable way. Our enclosed environment also eliminates the challenges and variability in weather that traditional farming faces. We also benefit from the added advantages of little or no chemicals used and non-GMO seeds. And, very significantly, we use 85% less water compared to traditional farming techniques. This is a result of our closed-loop irrigation system which constantly recycles the water in the farm. By using energy efficient LED lighting, our plants receive the perfect spectrum of light required for growth. Vertical farming maximizes growing space for food production, thereby providing a high-density growing environment.
We use 85% less water compared to traditional farming techniques. This is a result of our closed-loop irrigation system which constantly recycles the water in the farm.
Today we sustainably grow a wide variety of fresh and healthy leafy greens, which we supply to Pelican Market Suppliers, branded as Urban Farmers, creating a new product for consumers locally distributed throughout local supermarket depots. Our ongoing objective is to reduce the vast quantities of produce imported into Barbados, to help minimize Barbados’ ever-increasing carbon footprint and food import bill.
As regards the future, Ino-Gro Inc is currently in expansion after partnering with a local capital markets outfit - Silver Technetium Capital Inc, headed by Terrol Cummins and Arvind Gopwani - who provided a cash injection and guidance to business development and structure. The plan is to build out larger-scaled greenhouses with the intention of producing on a big enough commercial scale to give local importers a viable alternative supply of healthier and more nutritional locally-grown food products. Our vision is to work together with other local farmers to create a well-balanced farming community that can provide consumers with a steady, year-round, supply of top-quality fresh food at a consistent cost.