#TheBahamas, May 2, 2022 – Farms, like just about everything else, come in all shapes and sizes. And like other things that come in various forms, what works for one may not work for all.
“That’s what we’re learning as we go,” says Philip Smith, executive chairman of the Agricultural Development Organization, the non-governmental organization recently created to support agriculture and the culture of self-reliant food security. “While it is evident that there is a huge difference in resources and production capabilities between a mass production facility like Lucayan Tropical Produce and a backyard farmer on Cat Island, what interests us most, this is how we can learn from both and help each other. .”
The learning prompted a visit to Lucayan Tropical Produce, an impressive 20,000 square meters of greenery, soil, plants, shadehouses, refrigeration, boilers, equipment, endless rows of cucumbers, lettuce and tomatoes and something more difficult to replace: perseverance.
“We started in the fourth quarter of 2006 and it took us over 10 years to start getting it right,” explained Tropical Produce President Cameron Symonette, with a hands-on approach and knowledge of everything from value of a handful of seeds to what reverse osmosis does to the environment.
The most surprising lesson they learned was the dynamism of agriculture compared to other traditional manufacturing businesses, which Symonette and her father, Craig, the company’s director, call “the continuous purist of a happy plant , the one who wants to produce”.
“We changed systems and directions four times and we kept trying to get it right,” says the young Symonette. “We thought we could produce 100% of the market’s cucumber needs and 100% of New Providence Island’s Bahamian tomato needs, but it just wasn’t happening.”
What stood in the way was the lack of a significant difference between nighttime and daytime temperatures.
“Under good growing conditions, a plant is stressed every day due to the heat and relaxes at night,” explains the company president. “In the Bahamas, there is little difference between night and day, so the plant is stressed most of the time since the moving average of the difference is so small. It took us a long time to figure that out, to understand what made the plant happy.
Now, with strictly controlled temperatures, constant refrigerated trucking, and a new closed-loop temperature-controlled chill house under intense lighting, Lucayan Tropical Produce Lettuce is more hearty and proven to have a longer shelf life. than other products on the market, says Symonette. Thanks to the new indoor growing system, the company is able to produce lettuce all year round. Despite the cultivation of up to five varieties of tomatoes, the extreme summer heat put a stop to this production.
Lucayan Tropical supplies around 65% of the cucumber market with slender and traditional European cucumbers.
For ADO director Karen Casey, the visit to off-the-beaten-path Lucayan Tropical Produce in western New Providence confirmed what the founders of the relatively new NGO suspected.
“It takes a huge investment to create a successful large-scale farm in the Bahamas,” said Casey, president of Sysco Bahamas, the nation’s largest food wholesaler. “It reinforces our need to focus on planting cooperative crops and we are extremely grateful that the Symonettes have offered to help us in this regard.”
Smith said the happy plant and other lessons would be helpful to Bahamian farmers.
“Craig and Cameron have shared 16 years of experience with us, experience that we can bring back to workshops on community farming, backyard farming and schoolyard farming,” Smith said. “It’s been an incredibly valuable tour.”
ADO was formed in early January with a $1.1 million grant from FTX, the first major donation from the giant blockchain trading platform after opening its headquarters in the Bahamas. FTX CEO Ryan Salome sits on the steering committee along with Royal Caribbean International Chairman and CEO Michael Bayley, businessman and former Tourism Minister Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, Karen Casey and Smith, who is the former Executive Director of the Bahamas Feeding Network. More than a dozen community and civic leaders serve on various committees.
Release: Agricultural Development Organization
On your mind: Fact-finding visit – Lucayan Tropical Produce President Cameron Symonette explains the benefits of abrupt nighttime and daytime temperature changes for healthy, ‘happy’ plants to visitors to the new food security NGO Agricultural Development Organization. Pictured left to right are ADO Directors Diane Phillips, Executive Chairman Philip Smith, Sysco Bahamas President Karen Casey and in the background next to Symonette is Craig Symonette who founded Lucayan Tropical in 2006.
1st insert: Karen Casey, Director of the Agricultural Development Organization (ADO) and President of Sysco Bahamas, talks tomatoes with Lucayan Tropical Produce. ADO was created to make self-sufficient food supply a reality for the Bahamas.
2nd insert: A World of Cucumbers – Lucayan Tropical Produce supplies around 65% of the local demand for cucumbers, growing European and standard varieties under these leafy greens. ADO recently visited Lucayan Tropical as part of a 3-month fact-finding tour to gather useful information for Bahamian farmers at all levels, from the backyard to the community and beyond.