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UNDP backs greenhouse plan

Shawn Cumberbatch

UNDP backs greenhouse plan

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Efforts are on to take greenhouse farming in Barbados to a higher level.
A group of local young entrepreneurs have started a company called Solagrow and are preparing to launch “an automated climate controlled greenhouse system which is fully powered by solar photovoltaic technology”.
Lettuce will be a crop of choice and three Barbadian communities that are yet to be named will be involved.
As proposed, the plan includes building “solar cooled greenhouses for householders and commercial farmers”.
The near $1 million development venture is being partly funded by the United Nations Development Programme’s  (UNDP) GEF (Global Environmental Facility) Small Grants Programme (SGP) and has the support of the Inter-American Institute For Cooperation in Agriculture, which hired leading Jamaican greenhouse farmer Jervis Rowe as a consultant on the venture.
Rowe has been advising the entrepreneurs based on his experiences in Jamaica, which has a vibrant greenhouse farming community.
UNDP’s programme is providing a $300 000 grant, and there will be about $679 324 “co-financing in kind”, and more than $5 000 in “co-financing cash”.
BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY received confirmation of the project from Barbados Renewable Energy Association public relations officer Aidan Rogers, who is involved in its implementation. He said it would be launched shortly.
According to a project document, Solagrow will establish a “cost effective and environmentally friendly” model solar cooled greenhouse suitable for tropical climates.
“The Community Based Solar Cooled Greenhouse Research Project focuses on climate change mitigation within the agricultural sector via the development of community based renewable energy greenhouse demonstration sites within three communities across Barbados. The current project proposal seeks to highlight a possible solution to this ongoing challenge facing PA [protected agriculture] farmers in the island of Barbados and the wider Caribbean through the development of an automated climate controlled greenhouse system which is fully powered by solar photovoltaic technology,” the project outline stated.
“The overall goal of the project is to successfully demonstrate that cultivation of hydroponically grown lettuce in a fully automated climate controlled greenhouse system produces higher yields and better quality produce in terms of shelf life and durability over a similar grown in passively ventilated (window vented) greenhouse.”
Specific objectives included the development and demonstration of programming software which actively controls and regulates the internal environment of small to medium-sized greenhouses, through real-time responses to changes in temperature, humidity, light and carbon dioxide levels.
This was in addition to the “collection of practical data on the potential increases in yield, crop quality, durability and susceptibility to disease of hydroponically grown lettuce in a climate controlled greenhouse environment versus a similar crop grown in a passively cooled greenhouse”; and “demonstration of the successful and cost effective use of renewable energy and energy efficient devices to maintain consistent and reliable year round cultivation of lettuce in a climate controlled environment”.
“Demonstrations will be set up in three communities and persons from within the community will have an opportunity to engage directly with the project. The project team has started to build community acceptability and support. Since both the project and the organisation are new to the communities, they sought to engage the community from the project conceptualisation and development phase,” the project document explained.