Follow a Farmer

Want to know what it’s like to start an aquaponics enterprise in Jamaica? Follow some of the farmers who are participating in INMED’s “Increasing Access to Climate-Smart Agriculture” (IACA) program in partnership with the Caribbean Development Bank, Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund, United Nations Environmental Programme/Danish Technical University Partnership and Rural Agriculture Development Authority (RADA).

Support our farmers by donating to INMED Caribbean and sharing their stories with your social network.

Farmer #1: Tanesha Wallace

Tanesha Wallace has always loved gardening and decided to combine her passion with her need to generate additional income to help support her mother and younger siblings after her father passed away. Her solution was to build her own home aquaponics farm. For the past year, she has been cultivating an experimental aquaponics system comprised of plastic bins of goldfish and four shelves of vegetable plantings. It has been a labor of love, but it hasn’t been promising as a source of income—that is, until she learned of INMED’s IACA program in Jamaica. After meeting with INMED Caribbean Program Director Paul Barrett and INMED Global Partnerships Director Francesca Laursen, she decided to enroll in INMED’s adaptive agriculture initiative, which seeks to help budding entrepreneurs like Tanesha launch aquaponics enterprises.

Read Tanesha’s diary entries as she embarks on her exciting venture in aquaponics.

I am Tanesha Wallace and I reside in Montego Bay, St. James, Jamaica. I have had an interest in farming from childhood. My siblings and I would take pleasure in planting flowers, peas and corn. I also loved aquatics, and it has been a life-long dream that in my ideal home I would build an aquarium between the master bedroom and bathroom, and my outdoor landscape would consist of a backyard garden, with a stream running into a pond and an arched bridge over it.

In September2016, out of a need to gain better financial stability, I started researching how to grow tilapias to sell. I went to YouTube and saw a clip about aquaponics. I contacted the Rural Agricultural Development Authority to request information about aquaponics and was referred to Paul Barrett of INMED Caribbean. I called Mr. Barrett on the phone, and he invited me to visit the Knockalva Agricultural School in Hanover to view one of INMED’s aquaponics systems. I also invited my sister Shaneka Wallace and friend Shane Henderson to accompany me on the visit, which spiked more interest.

Diary Entry #2—Early December 2016:

I was at home and decided to convert my 5-gallon water jug into a fish tank, after which I bought a 20-gallon water pump, 2 goldfish and aquarium water hose. I then needed grow media and chose to utilize river stones, which were sourced by a friend from a river in his community.

Diary Entry #3—December 30, 2016:

Today, I officially started cycling of my home aquaponics system. It was a joy to see my mini system becoming operational. I planted a strawberry seedling, thyme and garlic. During this time, I added 2 goldfish.

Diary Entry #4—January 13, 2017:

Today, we upgraded the system by constructing a completely new and bigger one consisting of 3 shelves and 3 plastic storage containers that we utilized as grow beds and as the fish tank.

Diary Entry #5—January 17, 2017:         

Time to plant. I added strawberry, scallion, garlic and seedlings of lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, pepper and cucumber. I also added 4 more goldfish.

Diary Entry #6—February 12, 2017:

Today, I moved and changed the design of the system from the height of 4 shelves to 2 shelves and changed the location due to excessive sunlight. I also added 3 koi fish and 2 suckermouth catfish to the system.

It has been a trial and error experience. I tried installing a sump tank, which was unsuccessful as I couldn’t get it right because either the fish tank or the sump tank overflowed.

I upgraded the fish tank, which was my deceased father’s toolbox, added 6 tubs and an irrigation set-up to transfer water from the grow beds to the fish tank, with a view to plant more crops.


Diary Entry #7—March 23, 2017:

 I added approximately 130 tilapias to the system and moved the ornamental fish to a temporary home.

I’ve lost 2 goldfish, one 1 koi fish and a strawberry, scallion, thyme, garlic, lettuce and cucumber. Based on my observation, I lost the goldfish due to lack of oxygen after turning off the water pump for a night (I didn’t have an air pump at the time), during which algae was very active. The koi fish died during the transition to the smaller tank, which did not have a water pump or air pump at the time. The strawberry, scallion and garlic were lost due to high water saturation. The cucumber was lost due to inaccurate introduction of iron chelate, which caused the vegetable to become burnt. As it relates to the lettuce, I’m still unsure.

Moving forward, my sister and I intend to improve by learning more about aquaponics, gradually adding more beds and incorporating technology, such as a pH reader, thermometer and timer, as well as increasing the data records and possibly producing enough tilapias and crops to sell.

September 15, 2017:

Today is the official launch of INMED’s “Increasing Access to Climate-Smart Agriculture” program in Jamaica. Tanesha and her sister Shaneka are among the first participants in the program and are ready to start their training. Stay tuned for more diary entries as they grow their aquaponics business.