New aquaponics unit strengthens sustainable agriculture output at College of Agriculture, Science and Education

Garth Scott, research and outreach coordinator at CASE shares operations of the Aquaponics Unit with Heidi Clarke, Executive Director at Sandals Foundation. To the far left is President of CASE, Derrick Deslandes.

As Jamaica gears up for a drier than normal rain pattern this year, the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) has opened a new aquaponics unit to train and sustainably provide vegetables and meat to its various stakeholders.

The medium-size aquaponics unit forms part of the college’s Jamaica Adaptive Agriculture Program and will serve approximately 200 CASE outreach farmers island-wide and 215 CASE students annually. Start-up costs for the climate-smart agriculture technology, its construction, water catchment facility, solar power technology, greenhouse, nursery as well as operational, training and technical assistance to operate the unit were financed by the Sandals Foundation at just over US$40,000.

Garth Scott, one of the research and outreach coordinators at the college said the Unit will further sensitize the school’s stakeholders on environmentally friendly and rewarding practices.

CASE students share in viewing components of the Aquaponics Unit with college administrators and Heidi Clarke, Sandals Foundation Executive Director.

“The unit has the capacity to grow approximately 4,000 food fish and 5,000 pounds of a variety leafy vegetable every year, despite the limited projection for rains. These kinds of output bear as a shining example to 4H clubbites doing on-site training, approximately 1000 students who tour the campus annually and to local farmers who frequent the campus looking for appropriate technology for their farms.”

A secondary benefit “will be the ability of the college to develop and operate business enterprises as part of our college’s enterprise development program”, Projects Director at CASE Markland Murphy noted. The aquaponics program will also assist the college in providing healthier meals to its 800 students on campus and 200 staff members. Heidi Clarke, Executive Director at the Sandals Foundation said the project is also well poised to train new and old farmers in more sustainable methods in order to secure food sources.

Portland has traditionally been identified as a wet parish, but in recent years has seen progressively less rainfall. Aquaponics is a sustainable method of raising fish and growing vegetables, which allows for substantially growing more food with less water, land and labour than traditional agriculture.