Farmers and government representatives toured the operations of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute this week as the organization celebrated its 42nd anniversary.
The aim of the institute, known as CARDI, is to develop methods and technology that can assist farmers throughout the region increase their crop yield and income, thus making more produce available to consumers at affordable prices.
In Cayman, where the institute has been operational since June 2015, the scientists have already helped farmers improve the yield of their peppers through research on spacing of the seeds.
CARDI representative Ansari Hosein said that after trials, “yields and incomes were about five times higher when the plants were spaced at two feet between row[s] and one foot within row[s].”
On Monday, Cayman farmers joined institute representatives and government officials, including Agriculture Minister Kurt Tibbetts, for a presentation at the Agriculture Department.
“When we look at our peppers, if that is a simple indication of what you can bring to us, we are grateful,” Mr. Tibbetts told the CARDI team.
About 20 farmers toured the field operations, examined a poster exhibition and received information about CARDI’s app.
Mr. Tibbetts said that because so much land was being used for purposes other than agriculture, new innovations and technologies are necessary to enable farmers to produce more crops with less land. He added that Cayman’s agriculture industry is already embracing new technology.
“There is a totally untapped market here in the Cayman Islands for agricultural products; it’s simply a matter of us getting good quality products consistently at a price that is competitive. While those challenges seems to be great challenges, they are getting less and less because the deserving consumers are crying more for farm fresh produce,” he said.
Since coming on island in mid-2015, CARDI has been credited by officials with making significant contributions to research, especially in the area of peppers, by helping to supply disease-free seeds to the Department of Agriculture, which the department distributes to farmers.
Mr. Hosein said the institute is researching forage development, protected agriculture, production and productivity of roots and tubers, and some biotechnology work to improve and introduce new varieties of hot and seasoning peppers and quality seeds.
Adrian Estwick, director of the Agriculture Department, said one of the benefits of Cayman being a CARDI member is that farmers and the Agriculture Department now have access to a group of professional staff throughout the region.
CARDI was established on Dec. 5, 1974, in Georgetown, Guyana. As well as its office in the Cayman Islands, it has a presence in Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.