CFBC Hybrid Hydroponics-Agroponics Pilot Project

CFBC CrestWe met with Dr. Leighton Naraine Vice Principal and Science Lecturer at the college to discuss the innovative research he’s leading at CFBC.

As the name suggests, the project makes use of a combination of a hydroponic system – a growing environment where plants are grown in water, and use no soil – with an aggregate (soil) based system.

Dr. Naraine explained that the concept isn’t new per se, but what was missing was any data supporting the practice. The team at CFBC has documented detailed research comparing the performance of different crop varieties, nutrients treatments when compared to different agriculture methods.

Naraine explained that crops are grown in “greenhouses”, using shade materials to protect the crops and manage the temperature inside the house. The plants were fed a controlled variety of chemical nutrients and the results recorded.

He also went onto highlight that while the hybrid system out-performed traditional farming methods and pure hydroponic systems it was important to recognise that it wasn’t as simple of saying there was a 25% improvement in yield for example.

“Crop yield is just a single metric” he pointed out. “There are a host of other factors which are measured and have an impact that need to be considered.” The hybrid system consistently out-performed traditional farming in terms of:

  • reduced water use

  • reduced pesticide use

  • land use

  • sustainability

  • productivity

  • flexibility

Flexibility is a key consideration, as it offers growers the opportunity to respond to market conditions and demands, allowing farmers to produce crops that are in demand.

Vegetables growing in a hydroponics system

Vegetables growing in a hydroponics system

We asked what were the plans beyond the “academics” of the project, how is this going to benefit the community or country at large?

Dr. Naraine explained that there were plans to work with Barbados, Guyana, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago through the Organisation of American States (OAS), however “after a lot of negotiation and modifications to the project concept to satisfy the conditions of the OAS, another hurdle has still to be overcome. So at this point there is an en pass with securing the OAS funding”

However, the concept is to work with educational institutions and community stakeholders such as Farm Co-Operatives to replicate the “model farm” in the five participating countries. Thus building local capacity to create farms and learn the techniques needed to produce food.

Dr. Naraine explained that the costs of the infrastructure for the system alone, were US$40,000 and that these costs would be replicated by each participating country proposed for the pilot scheme. The need for 5 additional countries is to increase the sample size and test whether the results achieved in St. Kitts can be repeated and thus validate the research.

“We’re pressing on in the absence of the OAS funding and are trying to set-up a system in Nevis” he said. We’re seeking to publish a paper on the results and our experience, he went on.

Kittivisian Life will be sure to follow up with their progress during the coming months.

If you’d like to learn more or assist financially, contact Dr. Naraine at Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College.

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