Food security through climate resilient greenhouse systems

01-07-2020    09:39   |    Forbes

CARIBBEAN- When Ralph Birkhoff relocated to the Caribbean nine years ago, from his native Toronto, it did not take him long to recognise that agriculture and energy were two critical areas that needed to be improved within the region. Birkhoff and partner, John Martin and a group of shareholders, co-founded Alquimi Renewables LLC, focusing on renewable energy and protected agriculture projects developed specifically for island states that are vulnerable to a variety of climate threats. Alquimi operates its greenhouse farming operations under the Island Growers brand.

“The Caribbean’s over-dependence on food imports is not sustainable,” says Birkhoff of the region’s $6 billion food import bill, of which nearly a third consists of fresh produce, primarily from the United States.

“Arable land is extremely limited in most island states, and the climate conditions make traditional farming very challenging,” he continues. “High demand ‘cold weather’ crops like lettuces, leafy greens, and berry fruits just don’t grow well here to begin with, and certainly cannot be grown all year round. Even if the farm does get enough rain to produce a harvest, local farmers can still lose their entire crop through a hurricane, floods, or pestilence.”

While many agricultural agencies are working with local farmers to produce higher yields through various climate smart adaptations, soil-based farm supply has been challenging for many farmers due to an inherently import-reliant supply chain. 

While local produce, including a variety of root vegetables and tropical fruits are typically available, businesses have continued to rely on imported produce for their needs, particularly due to concerns surrounding quality and consistency. 

Alquimi’s solutions are underscored by the belief that climate protected agriculture holds the key to higher yields of better quality food. Birkhoff believes that, while greenhouse systems are not a novel concept in the region, results have been less than favourable due to the blanket reproduction of design and production solutions from markets that do not share the same realities as the Caribbean. 

Source: Forbes


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