“Being able to see my hard work paid off at the end of the day when I see those crops is really a blessing.”Alicia Williams, CEO, Aquaponics Jamaica
It has been called the future of farming because of how much water it saves. Aquaponics is the marriage of aquaculture — fish farming — and hydroponics — vegetable farming without soil. This technology, used for raising fish and plants together in a recirculating system, is gaining attention around the world and now in Jamaica thanks to a self-driven young farmer and entrepreneur named Alicia Williams.
Although not a new process Williams and her team has tailored the system to fit Caribbean farming. This model allows users to exhaust fewer resources such as land and water while capitalizing on other climatic conditions that are good for crop production. With a compact packaging system in mind, the complete aquaponics system can be purchased and installed for use in both urban and rural areas.
Illustration of how a small Aquaponics system works
We are indeed blessed to reside in a country where its summer all year round, however, there is a downside to this tropical luxury one of which affects the livelihood of farmers daily, from lengthy periods of drought resulting in low-quality crops to pests along with non-farming periods due to farming superstitions.
Williams, who’s been a farmer all her life became tired of the climatic challenges, daily tedious farming activities associated with crop growing and waiting for the stars to align decided to research a process that would make farm life simpler while generating higher yields.
“Ever since I have known myself I have wanted to start a business of my own,” said Williams.
With the desire and drive to start her own business coupled with her love for agriculture, an aquaponics system which provided a solution for higher yield, good quality crops while remaining organic was a perfect fit for Williams.
As with many small businesses aiming to grow there are many challenges on the road to success. To compensate Williams has been on the hunt entering as many competitions and applying for as much grants as she can to raise capital. Team Aquaponics Jamaica placed second in Jamaica’s Caribbean GreenTech Bootcamp competition and its sub-division counterpart Rabb-Eats; recently placed fourth in the national business model competition.
Williams, who currently successfully juggles both running a business and a regular day job, have not allowed the pitfalls of being a small business owner deter her dream of helping to stabilize the Jamaican food industry by limiting the importation of agricultural goods.
As a younger person building a career, you have to be cognizant of the fact that even though your business is growing; you need an income you can expect every month said, Williams.
Alicia encourages upcoming entrepreneurs to follow their passion and not to be intimidated by the business world or the current economic climate. She pleads for them to keep searching and always reach out to the various networks.
When I entered into aquaponics, I didn’t know much about the technology but I knew about farming much of Aquaponics success to date is due to the support received from my team said, Williams “Don’t enter into business because you want to start a business. Be sure of what you want to do, be confident about it, do a lot of research and form a team around you that can help you with your shortcomings. Then go for it! The world is your oyster as they say”.
Team Aquaponics from left: Dr. Stephen Rhoden, Alicia Williams, Karima-Deen SupriaO’Brian Clarke, Kimar Edwards and Shae Tongee Stewart
Aquaponics is a cool idea. There’s something appealing about using the waste from the fish to feed the plants. Producing food near to where it is consumed sounds logical; the food will be fresh, and you save money on transport.
Could our current agricultural dilemma present an aquaponics moment? Thanks to technology, demand, and entrepreneurial ambition, that wouldn’t surprise even the skeptics.
For more information on Aquaponics Jamaica and your hands on one of these systems visit:
Until next time,
Caribbean Climate Innovation Center
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