Recent climate events and the novel coronavirus pandemic have underscored the urgent need for local sustainable food production.
It is for this reason that INMED Partnerships for Children, a global humanitarian development organisation, will be expanding the reach of its local aquaponics farming initiative in Jamaica. “Climate change adaptive technologies such as aquaponics is an important part of the future of farming in our country,” said Earl Ashley, project manager for INMED Caribbean.
INMED has built aquaponics systems for technical schools, incarcerated youth, individuals with disabilities and farm cooperatives throughout Jamaica since 2011 and is offering free technical and business training to Jamaicans who want to launch aquaponic enterprises or build small backyard systems for food security.
In addition to online and hands-on technical training, INMED Caribbean provides free business coaching, access to financing, links to markets and ongoing technical assistance from INMED-trained RADA agents to build an entire value chain for success.
“It's a sustainable model for income generation and food security, and the market for aquaponics is growing rapidly,” noted Ashley.
The global aquaponics market is projected to reach US$1.3 million by 2026 — a 52 per cent increase from 2019.
Aquaponics is an all-natural food production technique that combines aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponics (soil-less crop production in water) in a closed symbiotic system. Nutrient-rich water in fish tanks is pumped to grow beds, nourishing crops which remove the excess nutrients and returning clean water to the fish in a closed-loop system, eliminating the need for costly fertiliser and irrigation. INMED Aquaponics® provides a simplified design which reduces building and operational costs, is scalable, and utilises locally available materials that can withstand extreme weather events.
Five communities in the Upper Rio Minho Watershed in Clarendon were beneficiaries of INMED Aquaponics® systems last year, through the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience funded by the IDB and implemented by the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation. The project was implemented in an effort to reduce the environmental impact of farming in this geographical area which provides water for a large section of the island. The beneficiary farmers have been producing bountiful crops while also reaping other benefits.
Crop production in an INMED Aquaponics® system is at least five times higher than traditionally farmed plots of equivalent size. It also requires 85-90 per cent less water than traditional irrigation, consumes far less energy, produces crops year-round and can be scaled to fit any space constraints in urban and rural environments, regardless of geographic conditions.
“We hope Jamaicans will consider this type of farming for the growing of thei, as it is highly lucrative and efficient once you have been trained,” said Ashley. Aquaponics farming is less labour-intensive than traditional farming and can be adapted for individuals with disabilities. “It also can be equipped with rainwater harvesting components and solar power to become a fully self-sustaining ecosystem with a zero-carbon footprint — a plus for the environment,” he added.
Carmen Dillion-Francis, a farmer from James Hill, said INMED Aquaponics® has changed the way she undertakes her livelihood. “The aquaponics farming that we do now is moving us away from traditional farming and into the future. It's much easier and less time-consuming and it is working smarter, not harder. I would encourage everyone to get a system if they can. You won't regret it!” she said.
About INMED Caribbean:
INMED Caribbean is the in-country affiliate of INMED Partnerships for Children, an international NGO that has worked in Jamaica since 2002 to improve the health, education, safety and opportunities of the nation's most vulnerable children through climate-smart agriculture, school gardening, climate change adaptation, nutrition education, positive youth development and teacher training programmes.
Officially incorporated in 2010, INMED Caribbean helps current and future farmers and their families adapt to climate change threats and become economically self-sufficient.