This project will address the critical need to increase food production in the country by encouraging individual households to participate in such. It also supports the State in its mandate to reduce the vulnerability of Trinidad and Tobago to global food prices upswings.
In discussion with a senior member of the Ministry of Agriculture, it was pointed out that hydroponic farming definitely falls within the purview of the present government’s goal of ‘Prosperity for All’ and its ‘Seven Interconnected Pillars for Sustainable Development’. On subsequent study, it can be seen that this hydroponic food production project can be enveloped under the following pillars:
People Centred Development.
Poverty Eradication and Social Justice.
National and Personal Security.
Information and Communication Technologies.
A more diversified, knowledge intensive economy.
The National Food Production Plan, 2012-2015 (the Plan) which aims for self-sufficiency in six specific commodity groups, has vegetables production as one of the groups. Even though the method of hydroponics is not defined in the Plan, it clearly can be used to contribute to increased vegetable production so that this project can be the pioneering project in hydroponics. More than that, this project can be developed into a viable business with spin-off businesses.
As a free-running enterprise, hydroponic production of crops such as lettuce and seasonings (herbs) can be very profitable. One of the great attractors from the consumer side is the pesticide free production. While this does make production more expensive, thus making the final price a bit higher than traditional growers, pesticide free is a very attractive component to consumers and with aggressive and focused marketing a niche market can be created.
Hydroponic production may also be used to enhance the ornamental plant industry of Trinidad and Tobago. Based on studies of Asia done by the Food and Agriculture Organization the demand for cut flowers is increasing worldwide indicating that there is still space for Trinidad and Tobago to make its mark in this arena. In the short-term, there is the potential demand within the Caricom market, supplying hotels and other areas of the tourist trade and while competition stiffens as one heads north, Trinidad and Tobago hydroponic growers of cut flowers may still find a place in the North American market. As gold medal winner’s times over at the British based Chelsea Flower Show, Trinidad and Tobago has a very strong reputation as a grower of beautiful flowers. Hydroponic flower growing can take advantage of this esteem in the medium-term, supplying the markets of Great Britain and Europe. Under the controlled conditions of hydroponics it can be assured that these cut flowers are grown perfectly, according to the demands of the customers. Long term, Trinidad and Tobago can look towards Asia as a market for the supply of specific flowers that cannot be supplied by the tropical areas of Asia. Flowers such as the chaconia, the national flower of Trinidad and Tobago, balisier and the like are not traditionally grown in the China, for example, and with proper exploration and marketing a long-term market may be created.
Besides fruit and vegetable, and cut flowers production, another business platform can be the training of individuals and groups on establishing hydroponic farms: its methodology and operations. This training can be promoted throughout the Caribbean either directly or through the more satisfactory ‘train the trainer’ programme. There is also the supply side of hydroponics, that is, suppliers of the basic inputs into hydroponic farming would be needed. Evidence from Australia shows that this can prove to be a very fruitful business, supplying both the hobby and commercial marketplaces with items such as growing media, fertilisers, greenhouses, environmental controllers, pollination and pest control kits and the like.