'Model Farm' shares cutting-edge techniques with agri-entrepreneurs
Forty agri-entrepreneurs recently travelled to the Nutrien Model Farm in Point Lisas to learn about best practices in agriculture as part of the National Agricultural Enterprise Training Programme, the annual agri-business initiative by LNG producer Atlantic and the University of the Trinidad and Tobago (UTT).
While touring the Model Farm and its Agricultural Resource Centre, the agri-entrepreneurs learned more about the advantages of technology in agriculture from Karl Burgess, manager of the Nutrien-owned farm. They were exposed to many technological techniques including efficient pest management tools, modern methods for soil-testing and a computerised irrigation system. The participants travelled to the model farm from UTT's Chaguanas Campus using the university's 100% electric-powered bus.
The 2018-2019 cohort of the Atlantic/UTT agri-business programme consists of veterans and novices in agricultural enterprise, and in addition to farmers also includes lawyers, engineers and educators. Participant Samantha Ramkissoon, who is a member of the legal fraternity, said that the programme so far has exposed her to relevant and diverse knowledge to grow her agricultural enterprise that she would not have received elsewhere.
“For three years I took care of my mother who recently passed from cancer. During that time, I saw the importance of diet and its effect on the quality of life,” she said. “This motivated me to give back through agriculture and the provision of healthy options. The programme is training me in the proper framework needed to build my dream.”
Ian Brown, an aquaponics farm owner operating out of Morne Diablo said the experience was very beneficial for him and his colleagues. “It encouraged us to think like commercial farmers, that we must create opportunities for growth in the planning stage,” he shared. “I will be able to take various lessons from today and apply it to my own business model.”
The tour of the model farm is the first time that the programme has incorporated a field trip into its offerings. Dr. Zameer Mohammed, UTT’s Assistant Vice-President of Professional Education described the opportunity as “bridging the gap between theoretical and practical”. He shared that the visit to the farm enabled participants to get a true understanding of how agricultural and technological systems work together.
In 2010, Atlantic and the University of Trinidad and Tobago partnered to establish the Atlantic/UTT National Agricultural Enterprise Training Programme. The 2018-2019 cohort is the 9th cycle of the programme. To date, some 205 agri-business practitioners have participated in the Programme, which aims to arm farmers with technology-driven entrepreneurial tools to meet the challenges facing local and global agri-business.