Cleantech Futures: Healing Grove Contained Farms

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Interview
Monday, March 22, 2021
The future of cleantech development and industry in Barbados is here! Meet the innovative incubatees of Bloom, the Barbados Cleantech Cluster. Discover their businesses, projects, personal stories and unique journeys in this interview series.*

Q: What’s your name and what’s your project/business?

A: I am Leiska Evanson of Healing Grove Contained Farms. Healing Grove Contained Farms is a circular farm growing orchards, crops and fish via organic, hydroponics and aquaculture under solar shade-houses.

Q: Tell us one thing you’re proud of since the inception of your project/business.

A: Entering Bloom and successfully being chosen!

Q: Why did you choose to sign up for Bloom? How do you think it can help you?

A: The process of entering Bloom forced me to focus my idea into something actionable and tangible. The entire process continues to push me to continue refining the idea into a reality.

Q: Is there anything you learned or gained so far from participating in Bloom that helped you to keep moving forward? How was that knowledge or experience helpful?

A: The courses and practice presentations have really helped me! The courses (taught via Coursera) are quite good because they are very pragmatic – filled with real world experience, real world idea building and business bootstrapping processes.

Q: What has been your most memorable experience in your cleantech journey? This can be personal to you (eg. Encouragement from a friend/family-member to keep going, a failure you had to have the mind-set to recover from) or business related (eg. Gained a strategic partner, qualified for funding, made a major sale, signed a client, etc)

A: One of my best friends came on board as a team member right away, ready to lend me her expertise as a renewable energy expert. She, my husband, my siblings and my parents all pushed me to apply to Bloom to help transform our family farm for the future. I remember how they helped with proofreading the concept and validating the idea and I felt so blessed.

Q: What are the top challenges you faced or are facing? How are you dealing with these?

A: Money!  Greenhouses, shade-houses and solar panels are capital intensive, even starting small. It’s exactly why local farmers hate them. I am looking to pull together a business plan that can gain funding from FundAccess or Enterprise Growth Fund but I fear using my house or farmland as collateral.

Technical details are challenging. These include issues like :

  • Can a shadehouse 25’ high with a 10 degree roof pitch and 250W bifacial panels get enough light/air circulation for plants?
  • With regard to export markets - In the UK, food can only be rated organic if grown in soil. How does this impact us?
  • What plants should we focus on? Are there new crops that could help feed the Caribbean?
  • What protein sources, other than prawn and fish?
  • Is processing economically possible?

A number of agricultural officers on the island seem to dislike greenhouses, citing numerous failures. Hydroponic/aquaponic farms exist on island but they all require space that I would prefer not to commit. Ground mount solar + shade-house solutions might be the only quickly viable option.

Q: Where are you now on your journey to success? How have you grown?

A: Right now, we are testing crops and hydroponic setups while writing the business plan for external funding.

Q: What keeps you going?

A: Climate change and the food price index keep me going. It’s real, it’s killing our farms and as an island, we could come to a point where our import markets no longer consider us viable buying partners, leaving us to starve. This almost happened in the 70’s during the oil crisis.

Q: What does success look like for you?

A: A working shade-house with crops and either solar roof (preferable) or ground mount solar.

Q: What advice would you give to other aspiring cleantech innovators?

A: Try, try, try, fail, then try again.

* Bloom is a sustainable energy and climate technology (cleantech) cluster hosted by the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC). It is being established in partnership with the Ministry of International Business and Industry (MIBI) and technical assistance by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

Barbadian entrepreneurs have been limited in their ability to develop, plan, install and maintain new, green technologies. With a focus on sustainable energy technology innovation, industrial development and entrepreneurship, Bloom is building partnerships between the Barbados government, local businesses, citizens and the academic community. Through these partnerships, Bloom is positioned to help Barbadian cleantech projects and entrepreneurs flourish.

Learn more about Bloom by visiting https://bloomcluster.com