Minister Richards (left) inspects a plant at the hydroponics farm.
ST. KITTS–An Agricultural Hydroponics System was launched at the Charles E. Mills Secondary School (CEMSS) on Wednesday, May 17, when lecturer from the Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College (CFBC), Stuart Laplace officially handed over the unit to Minister of Education Shawn Richards. The innovative project which seeks to modernise agriculture to make it more appealing to the present generation of students will be implemented in schools throughout the Federation over the coming months. According to project developer Stuart Laplace, this kind of agriculture proves very beneficial to all concerned, in that it uses technology to bridge the gaps between the vision of the Ministry of Education and the desires and interests of modern youth.
“A lot of our young people are losing interest. They don’t feel the need to get their hands dirty. So hopefully with this new design there is no dirt involved. There is no oil. The harvesting is pretty simple as you will see.”
Laplace in mentioning the outdated practices of past agricultural techniques emphasised that his Unit at the CFBC would work closely with schools in the implementation and maintenance of the project through long-term training and guidance.
“We’re going to be very much involved in what goes on at the various schools and we plan to start a training session soon with the different Agriculture teachers in the Federation. We showcase, sensitise, assist and show how we can improve the agricultural situation in our country.”
Laplace explained that the Unit at the CEMSS comprises two locally designed hydroponics systems. One model he has already introduced in various locations throughout the globe including islands of the Caribbean; the US; Europe and South America. The other model was unveiled for the first time ever at the CEMSS event.
Agricultural expert from the Ministry of Agriculture Dr. Eric Browne, in his delivery of advice to the Education officials present, echoed the sentiments of Laplace in ensuring that the needs of youth are given priority in determining the mechanisms that will be utilised to ensure food security in the future. Dr. Browne said that this was important especially in light of changing global trends and challenges.
“When we think of climate change many of the production processes in the field are threatened to the point where sometimes it is impossible, but hydroponics with this particular system helps to eliminate some of these difficulties. We are in a hurricane zone. It is essential that after disasters such as hurricanes that our food supply is up and running; the mechanisms are up and running as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
Minister Richards as well as others noted benefits of using hydroponics, while emphasising the capacity it would give to students who are exposed to it.
“You may end up working in the field of agriculture. You have a new technology that you can put on your resume and say to any employer that you have been exposed to this type of technology and come to him or her with an advantage that other students will not have.”
The Minister also urged students who were not interested in using hydroponics as their main source of income to consider doing so as an extra source of income in the future.
“You have learnt the technology. You have mastered the technology! This is a field of business that you can get into whether setting it up for other persons or setting it up in your backyard to sell food to your neighbours and others to make more money.”
Minister Richards also emphasised the potential of the hydroponics resource to significantly reduce the quantity of imported food into the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education William Hodge assured visiting educators from other schools in the Federation who were invited to attend the event that all efforts were being made to ensure the prompt implementation of hydroponics, as well as an overall thrust to see agriculture revived in schools generally as an important part of the schools’ curriculum.