BVI News

More gov’t support needed for ‘indigenous farming’ than greenhouses

Well-known farmer Aragorn Dick-Read wants the government to throw more of its support behind indigenous farming rather than agricultural practices that is overly dependent on technology.

During an interview with BVI News on Saturday, Dick-Read said pumping millions into greenhouses and other modern technology has proven to be a failure in the territory.

He said persons, for years, have attempted to introduce the territory to modern methods such as hydroponics, which is a method of growing plants without soil in a greenhouse. 

“In the Caribbean, it is much better to use ancient techniques that have been around for thousands of years using natural compost, planting a lot of the crops on the ground. Whereas the greenhouses and the hydroponics haven’t proved itself here yet,” Dick-Read stated.

“It (the hydroponics technique) is fragile and everything has to be imported. First of all, you have to set up a big greenhouse, you have to have electricity to run pumps and water to circulate the nutrients. Then you have to bring in all your minerals and then one big wind, and it’s mostly all over. It’s not long term. If it was a good technology, it would be running now and the $6 million they spent on the greenhouses there kind of prove the point.”

Fruitless greenhouse history, new attempts

Dick-Read’s statements follow Agriculture Minister Dr Natalio Wheatley’s announcement in the House of Assembly last month that approval has been given for new greenhouses to be erected in Paraquita Bay.

“I am excited about a lease Cabinet not long ago approved for a local businessman to build greenhouses to produce food at Paraquita Bay,” the minister said at the time. 

The greenhouse project, which has been part of the public discussions for years, has cost taxpayers more than $6 million to date. The previous NDP administration tried to roll out the project over the years but missed several of its promised completion timelines. It has been a failed ventured for the NDP.

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  1. Jokes says:

    It was the VIP/Hodge that initiated the greenhouses and then dropped the ball.
    However, Dr. Doolittle of NDP did nothing In 8 years to rescue them…

    Like 11
    Dislike 1
    • Deh Watcha says:

      Yup. Probably more than 10years since that fiasco was first started.

      But hey, “somebody” made money right?

  2. Anonymous says:

    The green fill the pocket project is all it is and has ever been.

    Like 10
  3. #2 says:

    This is the truth green houses also pest and pesticide use is a must.

    Its pure chemical fertilizers and run off that will damage the ecosystem.

    Plant the right crops under the sun, and they will flourish as nature intended. The main problem keeping the farmers back is lack of water.

    Put millions into giving the farmers water and research into sustainable crops for our climate.

    Not greenhouses that will blow down as the last did.

    Like 15
  4. Truth says:

    #2 is absolutely correct. It’s a problem for many nations. They want to plant crops that are not well suited for the environment. What then happens is you gradually destroy the original ecosystem and can even cause permanent damage in some cases. So stick to what’s suited for the environment.

  5. E. Leonard says:

    What failed the technology or the employment and management of the technology? Is there room for both traditional and modern farming methods to co-exist? Can agriculture become the third economic pillar?

    The answers to the first 2 questions are the simplest of the 3. In regards to the 1st, not too sure that the technology failed. 2nd, both traditional and modern farming methods can co-exist. The 3rd may need a little more debate.

    At one time, perhaps up to the late 50s, the VI relatively fed itself (albeit it had a smaller population ~8-10K) and even exported food to the USVI, especially St. Thomas. However, with the transitioned from agricultural subsistence to services (tourism and financial services), coupled with an improved standard of living, quality of life and per capita income (~$34K), VI residents started to show an indifference to “working ground” (agriculture)and agricultural production markedly declined.

    Other factors that also force the decline are a)increasing population (~30K), b)repurposing of limited arable to housing…..etc, c)stigmatizing of “working ground”, d)retiring of aging farmers, d)challenging water issues, e)increasing availability and competition with imports among other factors.

    Moreover, though the VI may not be self-sufficient in food production, it must increase food production to the maximum extent practical. Increasing local food production a)reduces the food import bill, b)enhances food security posture, c)improves employment, d)creates a multiplier effect in the economy and e)provides fresher and healthier foods( much of the imported processed foods are laden with high calories, salt, sugars and salt).

    Further, in my estimation, the VI probably imports between 70-80% or more of its food needs.

    Covid-19 exposed the food insecurity vulnerability. Nonetheless, the VI is not alone in the region with its food production challenges. Daphne Ewing-Chow, a Barbadian writer, in a recent February 20th article in Forbes magazine indicated that only 3 regional Caricom countries produce 50% or more of their food, i.e., Guyana, Haiti and Belize, with some importing 80% or more of the food they consumed. And that the regional food import bill for 2018 was approx $5B and is projected to increase up to $8-10B in 2020. It looks as if the Caribbean (Caricom) is not living up to its food production potential and resultant benefits.

    Finally, there is a clear advantage and benefit to the VI aiming to attain its food production potential and that government has a role to play. Government must develop a comprehensive and holistic agricultural product plan.

    Like 10
    • islandguy says:

      Very well put. Traditional farming practices supplemented with the more modern hydroponics can supply the VI with a broad selection of foods at reasonable costs, while moving them toward agricultural independence. Hopefully, there are enough smart people working to this end to move both in a positive direction.

  6. Mr D.Hazel says:

    Agriculture needs a tractor stop wasting my tax money on green houses I prefer a tractor to be imported now!!

    Like 1
    Dislike 3
  7. Watchman says:

    This was an opportunity to write a fantastic article, once again this news website missed the mark as usual.

  8. Local says:

    Both need to be prioritized. It’s not one versus the other. Also who says you can’t grow organically in a greenhouse? Everyone has their beliefs but try to stay open minded for facts please. The more food production the better until we have consistent surplus of supply. There’s enough for everyone to eat & make $$$ it just has to be prioritized. But I think Wheatley can come thru on it because he showed prior interest before he was in government and Fahie comes from an agricultural village. The Tech isn’t evil, it’s what we do with it that counts.

  9. Observer says:

    What does Mr. Dick-Read know about indoor farming seems other island nations know a little about this indoor growing. They are doing it and exporting… maybe if we didn’t serve his insane need to try to control the conversation by his interests. What has he done to grow more… innovate ? Or it is just spray and go… and expects us to eat his pesticides he sprays on the ground to kill the weeds?

    Look at the DR (exporting peppers and cherries), Jamaica is doing it (JBI) and exporting… why not BVI?

    Like 1
    Dislike 1
    • Farmer says:

      I invite the Observer to come to my farm and observe….. Seeing is believing -no ? Your conjecture and malicious maligning reveal more about you than the subject warrants. Please Observe.

  10. Concerned says:

    My question is that if I read it correctly the government was going to build the greenhouse for somebody to rent and use, will that be the same rental situation as Crafts Alive where the taxpayer pays for the premises and no rents are paid?

  11. island man says:

    The government can give everyone ( those who do not have) a piece of land to build a house and start a mini farm.

    Like 2
    Dislike 1

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