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 Marcus Sewell

Marcus Sewell is a 33-year-old emerging aquaponics farmer in Spanish Town, St. Catherine. He became interested in aquaponics two years ago when he was surfing YouTube and came across a how-to video on building a home system. It sparked his interest, so he decided to design a system that would feed his family and provide high-quality produce to sell to his community.

After a lot of research, Marcus constructed a float-and-drain aquaponics system w

ith five grow beds, two filters (bio filter and swirl filter), sump tank and fish tank. He planted basil, dill, cilantro, cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, parsley, kale, tomato, pepper and arugula in his grow beds.
Marcus describes his journey into the field of aquaponics:

A Natural Fit
“I’ve always loved farming, because I grew up on a farm, but my passion was always for electronics, computers and technology. Farming in Jamaica is traditional, and most farmers don’t use much technology. As I learned more about aquaponics, I realized it would give me the opportunity to introduce technology while using innovation to help produce healthy food.”

Bumps Along the Way
“After constructing a float and drain system, I started having pump problems and saw many fish that I bought die. That was my first taste of failure with the system. It was hard pill to swallow, but as an entrepreneur, I knew it was the first of many learning curves that would come my way.

“My next problem that came along was pests and fungus, which attacked and killed my plants. I had to seek help from my local agriculture extension agent, and that is how I learned ways to get rid of the issue without using any chemicals. I put in a row cover to prevent other troubles that come along with pests. Another problem was sediments that clogged up the pipes and got into the grow bed.

“My system has produced crops, but I haven’t harvested enough to sell, because of the hiccups along the way. A lot of people have doubted my idea, but I am determined to prove to them it works.”

Finding INMED & New Potential
“While searching on YouTube for other people who had tried aquaponics locally, I came across INMED Caribbean. I watched their video and then went on the website to learn more about what the organization does and how I can get involved with them. I had contacted Paul Barrett, and we had a very long discussion over the phone. He encouraged me to get involved with INMED Caribbean’s aquaponics training program, so I signed up.

“My expectation of the program was to gain more in-depth knowledge about aquaponics and how I can scale my home system into a commercial system that can meet the demands of restaurants, caterers, and hotels.”

Building a Support System
“As I’ve gone through the INMED program, I’ve met like-minded people and have started to network with them to share information. I’ve learned about different types of aquaponics systems, system design, types of plants suitable for aquaponics, plant disease, different types of fish, fish disease, and a lot more in-depth topics that I wasn’t able to find easily.

“This training has opened my mind to the next level of how I can create a commercial system for myself as a startup business.”

Next Steps
“The next step for me is to execute what I have learned from my INMED instructors. I have registered my farm name and myself as a farmer. I have started to work on my business pitch deck, so I can seek funding. My next move is to start scouting out areas where I can install a commercial system. I also am working on a material list and getting quotations on materials and labor charges.”

Update Summer 2018:

Marcus Sewell is a 33-year-old emerging aquaponics farmer in Spanish Town, St. Catherine in Jamaica. After receiving online and hands-on technical training through INMED’s Increasing Access to Climate-Smart Agriculture program, Marcus spent the summer building a small INMED ebb-and-flow system, which he will use to demonstrate feasibility and risk mitigation to potential investors, as well as generate crops for income generation. Below is a pictorial progress report.

Summer 2018: Building INMED’s EBB-and-Flow System

Update September 2018:

Marcus Sewell is a 33-year-old emerging aquaponics farmer in Spanish Town, St. Catherine in Jamaica. He became interested in aquaponics two years ago when he was surfing YouTube and came across a how-to video on building a home system. It sparked his interest, so he decided to design a system that would feed his family and provide high-quality produce to sell to his community.

Since enrolling in INMED’s Increasing Access to Climate-Smart Agriculture in March 2018, Marcus has received online and hands-on technical training as well as business training and mentoring. He is expanding his home system and is working diligently to launch his own agri-business. Below is his latest update on his progress:

September 2018: Coaching Session—The Business Side of Farming

I have been working on my business plan for some time now, because I wanted to take my start-up business, Brunswick Farm, to the next level. I had my first session with agri-business consultants Dr. Sharlene Ashley and Earl Ashley from The Consultancy Inc. at the INMED Office in Kingston. The Ashelys commended me on my pitch and how well they see the passion in me for my business and where I would like to see Brunswick Farm in the future.

My business pitch deck (business plan) was given a good grade as well, based on how well I put it together. The Ashelys provided constructive feedback on how I could strengthen certain weakness in my business plan. During the 90-minute meeting, I took notes of what I needed to delete, what needed to change and what I need to strengthen so I could pitch my idea to investors and banks. I took a lot of notes, because as entrepreneur my mind must be open to correction and learning new things. I came out of the meeting with a lot of homework to do. I am very happy that I am getting a lot of support so far to aid me in getting my start-up business off the ground, thanks to INMED.

 

Update February 2019:

IACA’s first agri-entrepreneur, Marcus has parlayed INMED’s IACA technical and business training into a business plan, which he has used to apply for financing. His commercial aquaponics system is already producing!

Marcus’ system is composed of 5 half-55-gallon drums used for gravel beds seated on 2 x 14 treated wood frame. A-250 gallon IBC tank is used as the fish tank, connected to a filtration system consisting of 20-gallon (black) drums, with a swirl filter and pipe leading to a 15-gallon (blue) drum, which serves as the biofilter. From the biofilter drum, a 3/4-inch PVC pipe is connected to the 5 grow beds.

The 5 grow beds have bell siphons, which are connected in series with a 2-inch drain pipe, leading to a 55-gallon blue drum that is used for the sump tank. The sump tank is connected back to the IBC tank.

 The system plumbing uses ¾-inch PVC pipe from IBC tank to the grow bed. The system is run by 4 solar panels with one inverter and one solar battery. There are two water pumps, with one located in the IBC tank and the other in the sump tank. One air pump serves the fish tank with 4 air stones. Tilapia fish are providing nutrients to the plant grow beds. There is a small Bloomsky solar weather station that is a part of the farm setup.

Stay tuned for more updates from Marcus!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update: October 2019

We’re pleased to congratulate Marcus on winning the JN Small Business Loans Start Up Kick Start Competition to launch an alternative agriculture enterprise, including aquaponics and vertical farming, to raise microgreens. Marcus developed the concept for Brunswick Farms Limited as a participant in INMED Caribbean’s Increasing Access to Climate-Smart Agriculture program, which includes intensive business planning and coaching.

“I pitched the concept to seven panel judges,” explains Marcus. “I  took them through the concept and how I would scale the micro-business into a full-grown company that would do an IPO on the Jamaica Stock Exchange.” His plan impressed the judges enough to award him JMD100,000 in seed funding. Our team at INMED Caribbean is helping Marcus negotiate a partnership with Dinthill Technical College to potentially lease its INMED Aquaponics system to get started.

“Being a participant of the INMED’s IACA program helped me a lot with the actual idea,” says Marcus. “I was aware that the JN Small Business Loan and INMED had a partnership that would allow INMED’s trained farmers to receive a loan to start-up their aquaponics systems. I was thinking if I win the JN Start Up Kick Start competition, then it would position me better to get the loan from JN Small Business Loan program.”

Marcus is now well positioned to achieve that goal and much more! Read more about the JN Small Business Loans Start Up Kick Start Competition: https://www.jnsbl.com/jnsbl-start-up-kick-start-winner-announced/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clarendon

Our aquaponics farmers have been extremely productive since our last update. Via a partnership with the Jamaica Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, INMED Caribbean recently broke ground on two more community aquaponics systems in the parish of Clarendon, where residents continue to struggle with the devastating environmental and socioeconomic effects of climate change. While construction proceeds on these systems, farmers in the community of James Hill held a volunteer workday to prepare their grow beds for planting.

INMED’s Increasing Access to Climate-Smart Agriculture (IACA) project will not only provide year-round food security for vulnerable communities, such as those in Clarendon, but will also provide technical and business training, access to financing and links to markets for those who wish to launch agribusinesses.

 

Farmer Angella Ramdon-Salmon

Angella is one of 24 women who are participating in INMED’s Increasing Access to Climate-Smart Agriculture (IACA) program in Jamaica. She is using aquaponics to expand her organic herb and spice business. Her aquaponics system consists of 6 grow beds using 55-gallon drums cut vertically,  3 fish tanks and 3 sump tanks consisting of 55-gallon drums cut horizontally. The herbs harvested from this system will be marketed to upscale buyers, along with other natural products derived from her crops. The products will be commercially available from Angella’s website at https:// dewcoirgreenlimited.com (website is currently under construction).

Stay tuned for more updates from Angella!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farmer Louis McLaren

Meet Louis McLaren, one of our budding aquaponics farmers in Jamaica. A recent retiree, he enrolled in INMED’s Increasing Access to Climate-Smart Agriculture (IACA) program to do something productive with his time.

“I was intrigued with the whole process of fish waste being used to provide nutrients for the plants. And I liked the idea of consuming organic healthy food,” he says. With INMED’s help, Louis has built a small-scale system consisting of two gravel grow beds and one 200-gallon fish tank enclosed in a 600 SF greenhouse that’s producing 65 lbs. of romaine lettuce every 40 days.

Louis’ system is the perfect example of how aquaponics can be adapted to any space constraints and still produce bountiful harvests in both urban and rural environments.

Check back for more updates on Louis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farmer 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. B

ased 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.