Agri-business incubator launched at HEART Ebony Park
An agri-business incubator has been created at the HEART Trust/NTA Ebony Park Academy in Clarendon to boost entrepreneurship and agricultural production.
In particular, the Ebony Park Business Incubator, launched on Friday, is expected to encourage the development of more agricultural start-ups in the country.
As part of the project, which will last for two years, five trainees have been selected to farm one acre of land at the Ebony Park HEART Academy to kick-start their own commercial agricultural business.
“This business incubator is part of an initiative to increase the interest of our youth in agriculture and to sustain the industry as a means of increased food security for the nation”, explained Dr Janet Dyer, managing director of the HEART Trust/NTA during the launch event.
“Additionally, this will contribute to an increased infusion of local produce in the cuisine of hotels and restaurants islandwide, with the potential for exports,” she said.
The first five beneficiaries, namely: Shanique Williams, Britnae Ellis, Chrisine Pink, Xavier Bonner and Jermaine Bryan, have all completed advanced agricultural training up to the National Vocational Qualification of Jamaica (NVQJ) level III, and will receive financial, technical and administrative support from various experts in the industry.
Central to the incubator initiative is that 60 per cent of the production will be sold through the Ebony Pride Brand at Ebony Park, while the beneficiaries will be coached to find the market for the remaining 40 per cent. In exchange, 60 per cent of the profit will go to the beneficiaries and the other 40 per cent will be re-invested into the business.
"Our farmers can no longer be viewed simply as individuals who plough the ground and reap. We have long passed that stage and must now be focused on more value-added products which give us the best opportunities to get the maximum from our investments and place us in a position to compete with the best,” declared Dyer.
Similar sentiments were expressed by the event’s keynote speaker, Hugh Johnson, president of the Small Business Association, who said: "We need to start thinking about farmers as entrepreneurs and the way we do this is by teaching our trainees, from early, how to deal with money. Parents who are farmers have a duty to live well off their farms so that their children can see that farming pays and as such, a viable career option".
The incubator project is being done by HEART, in partnership with several agencies, including the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA), and Young Entrepreneurs Association.
Winsome Witter, president of the Clarendon Chamber of Commerce, lauded the collaborations which are currently aligned with the economic developments in the parish.
“This changes the landscape as it means that individuals who have a farm but do not have the support can benefit from the wealth of experts. This is where as a group, we can work together to ensure that these upcoming entrepreneurs can get the financial and technical support to implement their ideas,” she said.
Similar incubator programmes are to be launched at other HEART Trust/NTA institutions, including Stony Hill Academy, GARMEX Academy, Portmore Academy, and HEART College of Beauty Services.
There are also plans to incorporate other youths, outside of HEART institutions, into similar business incubator programmes.