From the open field, to hydroponics, to packaging, to the end market – moving up along the value chain is my focus!
The average farmer in Jamaica is highly dependent on primary production, and he relies on the middle-men to purchase their produce at farm-gate. When we produce without a market, the bargaining power seldom lies in our hands.
I am expanding my enterprise by the use of hydroponics for vegetable and herb production, and the packaging of all produce for the local market.
I am Stacey-Dane Hutchinson and I am a 29-year-old young man. I hail from a fishing village, a small town called Port Royal in Kingston, Jamaica. Currently, I am employed as a Marine Technician. However, I am also a farmer!
I commenced my farming operations two years ago as I have always had a passion to support the Grow Jamaica Eat Jamaica movement. It has also proved to be a decent income earner while providing a rewarding feeling when harvesting and preparing my agricultural produce for buyers.
Currently I am producing cucumbers and okra, but in the past I have cultivated onions, peppers, okra, cucumber, melon, and Callaloo on 3 acres of land.
Today, the average consumer is extremely interested in what they consume. Thus, packaging will ensure that the end market knows where the produce was grown and the system’s sustainability.
I plan to increase production and packaging of hot peppers and Callaloo for the local market. Onion production is growing rapidly in Jamaica and there is a market for small onions, commonly referred to as ‘gourmet onions’.
Thus, my intention is to expand the line of products by procuring these onions and packaging. I will engage farmers in my community to ensure a consistent flow of all targeted produce.
I am very passionate about hydroponics because of my close connection to marine life and my love for water. This also forms the basis for my current project to be submitted in the “Young Agripreneur Program”.
My operation is family-oriented as my wife is also very active in the farming business. Our main aim is to move our business up the value chain so that we can supply fresh produce in convenient packaging directly to the end market.
Currently, I have a plan to set up a hydroponic system to produce lettuce, watercress and herbs such as cilantro, shadon beni, oregano, parsley and rosemary.
This project seeks to support the set-up of the hydroponics system, label design and approval, and packaging material for produce. This operation will adhere to Good Agricultural Practices to maximize quality. Brand identification is important to expanding my enterprise. Therefore, I am eager to establish this product line.
The hydroponics system will be set up alongside a shade-house which operates within one of the many existing irrigation schemes, thus reducing water access risks.
This project aims to procure the following to support its execution:
The pipes and pipe fittings for hydroponic system ($1500 USD);
Power Drill (Hole Saw) and PVC pipes ($100 USD);
Net cups for the seedlings and four plastic drums, one for spinning equipment to remove excess potting mix from cups prior to sterilizing and others for nutrient blending ($1550 USD);
Registration of enterprise name, label design and agency fees for assessment and standardization ($1050 USD);
Purchase and printing of plastic bags with label and barcodes ($600 USD);
Miscellaneous ($200 USD).
The project will be implemented over a one-year period with the procurement of the PVC pipes, drill and cups in month 2-3. Registration of enterprise, label design and standardization will occur during months 3-5. The printing of packaging will be done in month 10.
The $5000 USD will substantially contribute to the operation. However, I will be covering other costs to execute other aspects of the enterprise which will not be facilitated under this project. This includes fertilizer, filters, pump, planting material, unbranded bags (used in early stages for packaging of lettuce, and other crops) while we constantly test and improve the system.
Keys to success
Success will be measured by the increase in production by using the intensive hydroponics system, the number of market arrangements to supply lettuce and other crops, the increased number of contractual arrangements provided to local farmers to support supply, the increase in income from diversifying production, and packaging of produce.
Success will also be measured by increased employment opportunities as certain aspects of this operation are labour intensive.
Social media pages shall be created to support the rollout of the enterprise and line of products.
As a young man seeking to establish my career in Agribusiness, I thank you for this opportunity! I especially look forward to the mentoring as it will propel me in the right direction: towards success, and to be a YAP Champion!
Blogpost and picture submitted by Stacey-Dane Hutchinson (Jamaica) – aydenhutchinson[at]gmail.com
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
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