Jamaica, Agriculture Ministry Invites Investment in Drone Technology.

Image © Jis,Yhomo Hutchinson : Honourable Pearnel Charles Jr Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Observing Drone use at Onion Farm St Thomas.

Jis : The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is inviting investment in drone technology to ramp up production in the agriculture sector.

Speaking during a tour of onion farms in St. Thomas, portfolio Minister, Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr. said the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) is investing in two drones to assist farmers with irrigation, and the Ministry continues to encourage investors to get involved.

Image © Jis,Yhomo Hutchinson : Honourable Pearnel Charles Jr Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and Honourable Franklin Witter receive Onions from a Farmer Kenroy Kellyman. Acting CEO RADA Winston Simpson

“We want persons to come in and make the investment… . I think it’s a really good business. It will support small farmers and larger farmers, and most importantly, that’s what ‘Grow Smart’ is about – more efficiency [and] better production,” the Minister told journalists.

A demonstration of a drone masterfully irrigating an onion farm was the highlight of the all-day tour. The exercise was facilitated by Environmental Solutions Limited (ESL).

“They (ESL) provided a free-of-cost spraying of one acre, and we saw the massive drone go up in the air and it did what we would do in hours in minutes with less material and more efficiently,” Mr. Charles Jr. observed.

Meanwhile, Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of RADA, Winston Simpson, told JIS News that drone technology can potentially offer a solution to some of the challenges facing the sector, such as labour shortage.

“The labour force in the agriculture sector is dwindling, and so while we look at ‘Grow Smart, Eat smart’ we have to improve our technology. By using drones, we intend to ramp up production,” Mr. Simpson said.

The use of drones will help to spur further expansion in the sector, which saw a 9.9 per cent increase in domestic crop production in 2022.

A record 846,508 tonnes of crops was produced for the year, compared to 770,456 tonnes in 2021.

Furthermore, Mr. Simpson explained that the industry has taken “major notes” from the COVID-19 pandemic and is on a path to building resilience, which can be supported by drone technology.

The touring party visited several onion farms within the Yallahs area and included the leadership of St. Thomas and national RADA teams and agencies of the Agriculture Ministry and other interests.

The farmers showcased their innovative practices and were lauded by Minister Charles Jr. for their progress since his last visit just over a year ago.

“What we are seeing is excellent,” the Minister said, while noting that, “we’re seeing where every single person who I spoke to last year has increased their production. Some have doubled and some have more than doubled”.

He also commended the “synergy and harmony” between the farmers and stakeholders, which have led to an increase in productivity. In 2022, 30 per cent self-sufficiency was achieved in onion production.

The touring party also observed the results of a partnership between Food For the Poor, RADA, private stakeholders, and others.

Through the initiative, some 16 onion farmers are given the necessary support to enable thriving businesses.

“It’s something that we’re going to sit down with Food For the Poor [about] in hopes of expanding it across the country because the benefit to the small farmer is enormous, not just in terms of material and resource support but in terms of the technical guidance to ensure that what they do in their operation is successful,” Mr. Charles Jr. pointed out.

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