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 with 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.
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.”
“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.”