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Making Technology for Agriculture - Farming Inna Di City

 

The UWI, Mona provides expertise to students with sustainable business initiatives through the Mona Business Support Services Incubator Programme.

Business and engineering solutions firm EM2P, brainchild of current and past students of the Faculty of Science & Technology, is incubated in the Department of Physics at The UWI, Mona and is now helping to shed new light on what it means to have technology infused into agriculture, to the benefit of local communities. The firm has built a solar power automated monitoring and water delivery system, designed to eliminate the dependence on external electricity sources and conserve water, while safeguarding crop yields.

The system is being used in the Jones Town-based urban agricultural pilot project dubbed “Farming Inna Di City”. Comprised of a 4,000-square foot greenhouse and five open-field plots manned and farmed by community members, the project is an initiative of Jones Town Baptist, their sister church Bethel Baptist, and the Jamaica Baptist Union Mission Agency.

Six months on, EM2P’s has developed and installed their JMD650, 000 solar-powered IT system, which monitors the environment of the greenhouse and automatically delivers water to the plants. “[The system has] an electronic valve that turns on and off the pipe; sensors that tell us how saturated the soil is, including in it some remote monitoring and access that you can monitor from your phone from wherever in the world you are, as long as you have Internet access,” explained Chief Executive Officer Ian Scarlett, in a documentary film on the project.

The system also provides the added benefit of enabling community members to charge their cellphones free of cost. “It can provide communities with resilience during hurricane season if the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) power supply goes out. The system which can charge up to 10 devices simultaneously is scalable to upwards of a 100+ devices,” noted Chief Operations Officer Jayaka Campbell.

According to EM2P, their work with the project bodes well for the future of farming in Jamaica, as well as for their company.

“Farming Inna Di City is set to be the model for a remote greenhouse installation system. It is designed from the ground up to be scalable and replicable with a low-maintenance cost after initial capital investment. The hope is that it will continue to evolve in its capabilities and become the go-to system for small and large greenhouses in the Caribbean and beyond,” said Noel Francis Jr, EM2P’s Chief Information Officer.

“This project is [also] a great opportunity to display the capabilities of the company, how technology can be used to solve immediate problems in our communities, and to remark on an outreach that involved the residents of the Jones Town community,” added Francis.

Denise Forest, chairman of the Central Management Committee for the project, had high praise for their efforts and the progress to date.

“I am not saying it has not had problems, it is not a prefect project, but that step of faith has resulted in some meaningful results... I am very pleased with the progress we have made. It has been a challenging time, but I think worthwhile,” she said.

Since inception, more than a dozen farmers – males and females – have been touched by the project, whether from work in the open fields or training forwork in the greenhouse.

There are currently two people employed fulltime at the greenhouse, but, Forest said, additional labour is periodically contracted for services, such as mending fences on the farm, which has produced items such as callaloo and lettuce.

On next steps for Farming Inna Di City, Forest said the goal is on sustainability even as they look at options to diversify. “Being self-sustaining is now what we are focused on… As long as we have the energy and the ideas, we will continue the projects,” she said.

As for EM2P, representative Stefan Watson said: “EM2P will continue to develop innovative and cutting-edge solutions to solve some of the issues that plague all facets of the Jamaican society. We aim to develop solutions for the business, health, transportation education and social spheres, which will continuously aid in making a better Jamaica.”

“Additionally, we aim to provide opportunities to young graduates and final-year students, by offering internship positions. This will give them an opportunity to explore, create and express their creative geniuses without being made to endure the rigours of the traditional work place,” noted Scarlett of the firm, which offers not only consultation for technology products, but also web design services, database/ backend development and embedded system development.


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