Innovative approaches and solutions, especially among young entrepreneurs, can be key in advancing Guyana’s agricultural sector. Advancement in the sector can lie in the nuanced ideas which the country’s youth is able to utilise.
This is the view shared by youth entrepreneur, Mark Boneo, a teenager from Trinidad and Tobago who has reaped immense success from digging his hands into his country’s agricultural sector. In an interview with Kaieteur News, Boneo related that his success in his country’s agricultural sector has resulted in him forecasting a financial return of US$10,000 in the near future.
The young entrepreneur was visiting Guyana as one of the feature speakers at a recently held youth forum, the “Just Youth It Conference”.
In his address to the hundreds of youths present at the local conference, Boneo shared his success story in the agricultural sector as someone who before entering the field had little interest in traditional farming.
Boneo became an agricultural entrepreneur after being inspired by another youth conference in the US a few years ago to take part in hydroponics.
Hydroponic is a subset of hydro-culture and is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. Terrestrial plants may be grown with solution only, or in an inert medium, such as gravel.
For Guyana, the 19 year-old posited that such contemporary and innovative approaches to agriculture could be vital in garnering more interest in the sector from young people.
The young entrepreneur, a native of Lopinot, Trinidad, a predominantly farming community, said that he never really had interest in traditional agriculture, but after adopting hydroponic methods, it opened up a new realm of possibility both sustainably and financially for him.
His business journey, Boneo related, began two years ago after he visited his country’s agricultural development bank, seeking a loan to help start up a hydroponics facility. The young businessman said that he was initially turned away by the bank, given his age, but persisted in the pursuit of his ambitions in agriculture.
He eventually obtained the loan, and was able to harvest produce from his first crop to take care of initial expenses. Since then, Boneo was able to the produce more of his crops, and now as a result the he is able to own his own hydroponic greenhouse system.
“Within the next two years, I’d like to own 10, with a factory which processes the produce and then ship it to intermediaries within the region,” shared Boneo.
He said that this is all part of his vision to create affordable food in his country along with delivering food that is high in quality and can compete in the international market with regards to packaging.
To ensure the sustained success of his agricultural venture, Boneo shared that he continuously tests his crops on a small level then observes his failures and accomplishments with the harvest. Once a viable solution is found on the smaller level, then the 19 year-old employs it to his large scale produce.
Boneo’s hydroponic venture has now afforded him the opportunity to delve into other business ventures and he is now looking for ways to invest in the Guyanese market.
With Guyana, Boneo shared that he sees much potential in the country’s agricultural sector with regard to hydroponics, especially with young persons who wish to be part of a modern way of farming.
The continuity of agriculture is vital to the country, but Climate Change poses new challenges for the sector. However, these challenges can work to the benefit of younger generations as they find new ways to maintain and control the production of agricultural produce through contemporary methods like hydroponics.
“Climate Change is something real so if you have agriculture being a major part of the economy and Climate Change is a reality, then sustainability is a major challenge. We don’t want to have tomorrow 30 percent of the economy being down because of a change in the weather,” said Boneo.
The young man added that by expanding the types of crops produced, outside major crops like sugar and rice, would be a step closer to ensuring food security not only for Guyana but for the Caribbean.
Asked what he would say to Guyanese youth about venturing into the agricultural sector, Boneo responded the young people need to stop being reactive.
“When you become reactive you blame everybody else for your situation… Be proactive, take the initiative… then you will see opportunities in agriculture,” said the youthful businessman.
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