BAMSI Developments Towards Food Security

Expanding production acreage for the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) from 124 acres to beyond is the government’s newest strategy to strengthen the Bahamian agriculture sector, nestled in Andros.  Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources, the Hon. V. Alfred Gray announced future plans for the institute from the conference room of the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources, September 15, 2016.

Farm Production Expansion:

Minister Gray said, “The Research and Demonstration Farm started crop production in 2014, and in the last two years total acreage under production is now 124 acres with plans to expand the acreage.  In conjunction with crop production, livestock production also started in 2014 with 23 small ruminants, sheep and goats, out of Nassau.  The institute’s herd of small ruminants [was] granted by a shipment of sheep and goats from Texas.  A consignment from Ohio is expected in the latter part of this month,” said Minister Gray.

“One of the main crops from the farm is bananas, which has gained consumer acceptance in the market as 200 boxes at 40 pounds each are being put on the market each week.  There are 44.5 acres of coconuts which, as a recent market survey indicates, is in great demand as coconut plantations throughout the region are being devastated by diseases like Lethal Yellowing.  Citrus production is under attack from Citrus Greening, which has the capability to wipe out citrus production.  Presently there are 4.5 acres of limes with plans to expand to 25 acres.”

Minister Gray added that earlier this year there were nine colonies of bees and the Apiary has produced a high quality of honey for the market.  He added that plans are afoot to diversify livestock production into pork, poultry, and a small herd of beef and dairy cows.

Internet Distance Learning and Certificate Programmes:

Minister Gray said the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) began three years ago, establishing the Research and Demonstration Farm, which comprises the Academic Arm of the BAMSI College, the Marine Farm and now the Outreach/Extension Unit to teach students to field crops, fruit tree orchards, livestock and a nursery.

“The Academic Arm held its first graduation this past July, and opened the fall semester this August.  In attendance were about 40 students, 26 male and 14 females, from eight islands Abaco, Andros, Cat Island, Eleuthera, Exuma, Grand Bahama, Long Island and New Providence.  The Institution has also embarked on a distance learning programme over the Internet.  This will make the Academic programme more accessible to a large number of Family Islanders,” said Minister Gray.

“In August, the Institute offered a two-week, three credit, course in Extension Education.  The lecturers on the course included two professors from the University of Florida.  This will become an annual activity.  There will also be a certification and certificate courses in special areas.”

Hydroponic Farm Yielding Green, Leafy Vegetables:

“The Marine Farm encompasses some 1.5 acres of covered area where a range of lettuce is being grown hydroponically with infrastructure in place to commence Tilapia production.”

Minister Gray said the current aquaponics shade house has a 65,000-square-foot area and leafy green products are currently being grown using hydroponic methods including six varieties of red and green gourmet lettuces, basil, arugula and kale.  He added that over the last two months, about 3,000 pounds of lettuce were harvested from the hydroponic raceways and four additional raceways are currently under construction to supplement the three now in use in the shade house.

“These additional raceways are expected to double the production in the shade house by the end of November 2016.  A further four raceways are also planned to be completed in the shade house by the end of 2016.  All of these additional raceways will assist in food production, BAMSI’s education programmes and experimental trials on the growth and productivity of various varieties of leafy greens, in the shade house,” said Minister Gray.

Marine Research Area Looking at Red Bays Sponge Beds:

“The Marine component of the Institute is presently conducting research on the sponge beds in Red Bays, North Andros.

Associated Farmers Programme Through the Archipelago:

The Outreach/Extension Unit is well on its way as offices have been opened in Eleuthera and Long Island with additional offices soon to be established in Freeport, Grand Bahama, Abaco, Exuma and possibly Cat Island.  These offices are being opened with the objective of expanding the Associated Farmers Programme throughout the Archipelago.”

Minister Gray said in North Andros, the Associated Farmers Programme has set a target of 100 farmers as its goal.  The programme has identified 16 crops for an Import Substitution Programme as we seek to reduce our food dependency and enhance the capacity of our farmers to increase production.

“This increase in production has manifested itself through its output in the Distribution Centre in the Levy Building on East Bay Street.  At this Centre, we have installed gas ripening equipment and cooling facilities to ensure the high quality of our fresh produce, particularly our lettuce and bananas.  In addition to fresh fruits and vegetables, there is a range of locally processed jams, jellies, sauces, dried herbs, and honey from all over The Bahamas,” said Minister Gray.

“The Institute is encouraging local food processing as a means to obtain great value added to our local fresh fruits and vegetables.  Several foreign investors are presently engaged in negotiations to expand organic fruit production, and the introduction of renewable energy technology through the utilization of bye-products from local producers in a joint venture project with the Institute.”

Agri-Vision 2021 Food Security Plan:

Minister Gray said the Institute is in the process of launching a major project, Agri-Vision 2021, which is a five-year food security plan to feed The Bahamas.  He also said it is envisioned that this Food Security Plan over the next five years will take local production to the half-billion dollar mark in local output.

“It was announced in the House of Assembly that the Institute will take over the management of the Government’s Research and Agriculture Centre (GRAC) on Gladstone Road.  One of the new features of GRAC will be the establishment of an Urban Agriculture Centre as we seek to enhance food production in our urban centers of Nassau and Freeport,” said Minister Gray.

Institute to Become Locale for CARICOM’s Premier Agricultural Research Facility:

“The Institute is now integrated into the regional research network as it will be the locale for the Caribbean in Agricultural Research Development Institute (CARDI): the premier agricultural research entity in CARICOM.”

Minister Gray said two agricultural research professionals in crops and livestock production will be stationed at the Institute to conduct research in conjunction with the Institute on crop and livestock husbandry challenges facing the Agricultural Sector of The Bahamas.  He concluded by saying these CARDI professionals will lend support to the faculty of the Institute in the capacity as lecturers.

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