Climate-resistant greenhouse farms launched in St. Maarten


[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] The Daily Herald (St Maarten) reports on an Alquimi Renewables, LLC/ Island Growers’ venture: the first 100 per cent climate-resistant greenhouse farm operations in the Caribbean region.

Alquimi Renewables, LLC (“Alquimi”) and its farming operations group Island Growers have announced the first 100 per cent climate-resistant greenhouse farm operations in the Caribbean region. The farms will employ custom-designed hurricane-resistant greenhouse systems developed in partnership with Sprung Structures Ltd. based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

“Our greenhouse system represents the new standard in climate resilience which is critical to operating commercial farms in regions constantly threatened by cyclonic wind events and flooding. These are the strongest greenhouse systems in the world – engineer-certified up to 175 mile-per-hour (mph) sustained wind loads, earthquake-proof and flood-proof,” states Ralph Birkhoff, Founder and Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) of Alquimi.

Inside these greenhouses, Island Growers employs a customised, sub-tropical shallow aggregate ebb-and-flow (SAEF) hydroponic system which delivers the highest potential crop yields while using a fraction of the energy and water required by other systems. “Energy costs are extremely high in most Caribbean islands, and water is a limited resource, so our farms utilise low-energy production systems and we recycle water to reduce our cost of production. As we expand the farms we will also integrate renewable energy options.” The greenhouse systems are naturally aspirated, requiring no evaporative cooling; instead the production system itself uses a chilled water system to enhance yields.

“The region is feeling the impact of the pandemic like everywhere else, but the Caribbean especially is affected since it is almost entirely dependent on fresh produce imports to supply its core tourism industry. Now exporting countries are starting to limit their supply, so it has become even more critical to grow these specific high-demand crops locally,” says Birkhoff.

Island Growers will be operating its first farms in Anguilla and Trinidad with several other islands targeted by year-end. The company intends to focus on cold-weather crops that are in constant demand by the tourism industry but are extremely difficult to grow locally through traditional means and to the volumes required. “Local farmers do an incredibly good job producing indigenous crops with what they have, but the constant threat to soil-based agriculture by drought, floods, pestilence and hurricanes is always a challenge for them.” Island Growers will be focused on a large variety of lettuces, leafy greens, fresh herbs, berry fruits, tomatoes and pepper categories.

By employing these state-of-the-art protected agriculture systems, Island Growers is on a mission to provide higher food security to all island states, reduce food import dependency, improve food quality and nutritional content, and to attract local youth – including women – back to farming as a career.

“We have recently been successful in attracting several investor partners who believe in our vision and technologies, who will help us drive expansion fairly rapidly. Our partners and shareholders are very positive [about – Ed.] the prospects. It’s been a lot of hard work, but we hope to make a difference here,” Birkhoff concludes. [. . .]

For full article, see