Tue | May 11, 2021

Millions ploughed into Sydney Pagon agro project

Published:Monday | April 26, 2021 | 12:15 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
Milbert Miller, principal of Sydney Pagon STEM Academy, shows the progress being made on the pepper farm in Elim, St Elizabeth.
Milbert Miller, principal of Sydney Pagon STEM Academy, shows the progress being made on the pepper farm in Elim, St Elizabeth.
A greenhouse with pepper seedlings at the Sydney Pagon STEM Academy in Elim, St Elizabeth. JWN Foundation’s gift of $35 million has been described as the largest private-sector investment in the school.
A greenhouse with pepper seedlings at the Sydney Pagon STEM Academy in Elim, St Elizabeth. JWN Foundation’s gift of $35 million has been described as the largest private-sector investment in the school.
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WESTERN BUREAU:

A multifunctional agro-processing plant estimated to cost $35 million is being established at the Sydney Pagon STEM Academy in St Elizabeth as a gift from the JWN Foundation, the charity and community outreach arm of the rum producer J. Wray & Nephew Limited.

The project is part of the intervention by the JWN to assist in providing sustainable economic activity in the parish where the Appleton Estate factory has been closed and the bulk of the company’s previous sugar cane-growing operations there discontinued. It is also a tangible investment by JWN in the growth and expansion of the school’s agricultural programme.

The processing plant will also solve the perennial problem of farmers in the parish having a substantial amount of produce going to waste as a result of oversupply and insufficient markets.

Work on the facility will commence in June, with completion set for September.

“The plant will have the capacity for combined weekly product throughput of approximately 5,000lb of powdered products, dried produce, roasted breadfruit, chips, and fresh vegetables.

Sydney Pagon principal Milbert Miller said the school, with more than 200 acres of cultivable land, prides itself on being a project-based learning institution preparing its students to solve real-world problems.

“We are expecting to handle produce such as pepper, breadfruit, sweet potato and ginger; any produce that can be dried and made into powder or pulp,” Miller said of the processing plant.

He outlined that the agro-processing facility would be fitted with seven solar dehydrators, with solar produce dehydration being a field to which students have already been exposed. The technology has been harnessed to make breadfruit flour.

Dehydration allows products to have a longer shelf life.

Describing JWN’s input as the largest private-sector investment in the school, Miller said that 80 per cent of the 900 students enrolled at the Sydney Pagon STEM Academy would be involved.

In expressing gratitude to the foundation, Miller spoke to the benefits the project would offer the wider community.

“What this will do for our farmers in this area is give them access to a facility where they can bring their produce to be packaged and made ready for market. We will also be establishing marketing linkages. The economic viability and the economic sustainability of this side of the parish will be guaranteed,” he said.

In a press statement, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green said the investment by JWN Foundation was significant not just for Sydney Pagon STEM Academy and St Elizabeth but for agriculture in Jamaica.

Green said private-sector support was key to transitioning farms into areas other than sugar cane.

“We want to establish more spaces where our farmers can be involved in secondary production and create value-added goods,” the minister said, signalling the Government’s support for the project.

He said the project would be a game-changer for the institution and surrounding communities.

In designing the facility, JWN Foundation consulted with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority.

The project, Miller said, would help to improve teaching and certification for students at Sydney Pagon.

“We have different units, including piggery, poultry, apiary, crops and dairy. We are expecting that our students will leave with at least a level three agro-processing certification from NCTVET. In terms of specialisation, the majority of our students will gravitate towards First-World technology,” said Miller.

JWN is the Jamaican subsidiary of the worldwide Campari Group.