How to tap into the immense economic opportunities of farming without the labour and hardship faced by many farmers? Make it simple and accessible. Make it low maintenance. Reduce overheads. Get your crops to market before anyone else can. Grow Life Supplies have been working with the youth of the Bahamas to do all of this using AutoPot Watering Systems supplied by AutoPot USA.
Based entirely in the Caribbean archipelago, GLS aim to revitalise the Bahamian horticultural industry. They want to get young people on the islands a share of the two billion US Dollars the Bahamas spends on imported foodstuffs every year. In the words of Germaine Turnquest, Co-Owner and Operations Manager of GLS, ‘We seek to do this via innovation, example and education. We purposely target the youth of our nation in an effort to demonstrate to them that farming is not only needed but also lucrative.’
As GLS have found, when it comes to a grassroots effort the need has never been greater. ‘In terms of food crop production The Bahamas is definitely lacking despite many recent efforts by our government and a few private entities. It is no secret that we are extremely dependent on food importation.’
Outsiders might wonder why such dependence should occur. After all, surely practically anything can be grown cheaply and easily in equatorial climes? Not so, everything from fresh water access, land quality, weather, and loss of skills presents a challenge. Put these challenges together and you get one hefty obstacle to food security. In AutoPot GLS believe they have found the means to overcome this problem.
Take water use for example. Traditional, in-earth cultivation demands significant quantities water on a regular basis and assumes that a large proportion of that water will be lost to the ground. As Germaine points out, in the Bahamas that’s just not tenable. ‘Access to fresh water can be a challenge especially for our more southern islands such as San Salvador and Inagua. Some growers are lucky to have access to a fresh water well. For those without a well, the utility cost can be unfeasible. AutoPot systems have been amazing in this regard due to their minimal-to-zero water wastage.’
Germaine reports that AutoPot Watering Systems have also helped growers make their crops far less vulnerable than their land-grown counterparts. ‘Two years ago hurricane Dorian swept across our islands leaving a trail of devastation in its wake. Because the systems are modular we were able to easily relocate all of our crops grown in AutoPots indoors. All of our in-ground crops were unfortunately lost due to high winds and torrential downpour.’
Despite being more efficient, more flexible, and easier to master than in-earth cultivation, irrigation systems often have their drawbacks, chiefly the cost of overheads. As Germaine says, ‘the electrical billing here can be astronomical, substantially ramping up operational cost.’ However GLS have found AutoPot offer an answer there too. ‘The easy2grow systems we use have been critical to the success enjoyed by both our clients and ourselves due to their electricity-free operation and not having to run power hungry pumps.’
It’s always fascinating to find out what growers around the world use in the systems and GLS’s insights are no exception. ‘Most of our clientele typically utilize a 50/50 blend of soil/perlite with some form of gravel such as washed pearock or lavarock at the bottom of the pots. This choice of substrates is the most economical due to the cost related to importing hydroponic substrates.’
GLS offer an extensive service for growers who are just getting started in order to ensure they get the best possible results. On-site they show clients how to blend their own soil-based growing mediums with granular fertilisers and how to use supplements such as iron or calmag via the reservoir. At their own farm they’ve tested ‘a variety of hydroponic nutrients with MegaCrop by Greenleaf Nutrients being a firm favourite.’ Next up they’re looking forward to trialling HortAmericas OMRI-Listed, fully organic Pre-Empt nutrient with AutoPot.
Eggplants, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, herbs, and all manner of other crops are grown by Bahamian farmers. Many are now doing so in AutoPot thanks to GLS’s tireless efforts to introduce and assist with the systems. Germaine says that AutoPot has proven an excellent way to engage with those who have no previous experience of farming. ‘We just make sure we are accessible and available. We also have an awesome support system for clients and free education is provided to those who volunteer at our own farm. Our social media platforms also go along way into garnering interest.’
Yet more wonderful work with which we’re proud to see our systems associated. Our profuse thanks to GLS for their efforts and insights along with AutoPot USA for their hand in getting this excellent enterprise underway with our systems. Check out our Insta, Twitter, and Facebook feeds for more from AutoPot growers around the world.