While the Cayman 2.0 series has thus far been looking at the ideas and strategies that could make the country a better place, we’re changing things up for December. This month, we’re highlighting 21 people who could turn some of those ideas into reality – or at least get the ball rolling – over the next calendar year.
The goal over the next 12 months is simple for Botanic Farms director Josephine Horwitz.
“I hope a year from now we’ll be fully operational,” said Horwitz, just days after the Central Planning Authority granted permission for her company to build a hydroponic farm in Frank Sound, near the Botanic Park.
The Cayman Islands imported nearly $228 million worth of food and beverage products in 2019, according to the Economics and Statistics Office. That total has grown every year since at least 2012, the earliest year listed for food and beverage imports in the ESO’s 2019 Compendium of Statistics. Architect Derek Serpell, who represented Botanic Farms at the 9 Dec. CPA meeting, said upwards of 97% of Cayman’s food is imported.
21 people in 2021
“You’re growing all this food on huge pieces of land. And then it has to [be transported] sometimes two weeks… and then on a ship until it gets here,” Horwitz said.
“When we grow food here in Cayman, we can grow it to be picked and to be eaten immediately. So the taste is better. It’s higher in its nutrient content.”
The farm will consist of two greenhouses, storage, packaging, a farm shop and water tank, according to the CPA agenda. The greenhouses will be made of plexiglass and will not require artificial light, which is expensive and requires a significant amount of energy. The operation will cover roughly 6,500 square feet.
Cayman’s weather and sunlight make it a perfect place to pursue such a project and she said her company plans to build up to overcome the space issue by installing 12, 105-foot vertical ZipGrow towers for the produce.
She said plans were in the works even before COVID-19 hit Cayman, but the pandemic again showed the need for more locally produced food.
“You don’t always know where your food’s gonna come from,” she said. “We should be independent. We are a first-world, developed country. We have a relatively small population. We can do it.”
Horwitz says she plans to grow common herbs and greens like lettuce, chard, bok choy, mustard greens, kale, collards, microgreens and cucumbers. For some species, she says, the harvest will be every five to six weeks.
Now that Botanic Farms has planning approval, Horwitz hopes to have everything ordered, shipped to Cayman, and up-and-running by as early as the second quarter of 2021.
She says the greenhouses are shipped already partially constructed and therefore it shouldn’t take long to put all the pieces together and get the project running.
“I’m so excited,” she said.
“I want to pick everybody’s brain, like the older farmers here that have the knowledge. I want to be able to just keep passing that knowledge on to more people and future generations.”