Tue | May 30, 2023

REAPers cash in on $1m grant to boost agri projects

Published:Tuesday | April 20, 2021 | 12:10 AMTamara Bailey/Gleaner Writer
Lanisia Rhoden, founder of Young Women and Men of Purpose.
Lanisia Rhoden, founder of Young Women and Men of Purpose.
Keith Peynado, beneficiary of the YWOP/ YMOP Agri Tech Entrepre-neurship programme and owner of Bravura Foods.
Keith Peynado, beneficiary of the YWOP/ YMOP Agri Tech Entrepre-neurship programme and owner of Bravura Foods.

MANDEVILLE, Manchester:

Ten entrepreneurs across the island are now anticipating reaping dividends from an initiative under which they were each given $100,000 grants and training to incorporate more technology in their agricultural operations to boost productivity.

The initiative was spearheaded by the Manchester-based non-governmental organisation Young Men and Women of Purpose (YWOP/YMOP) and supported by the United States Embassy and Entrepreneurs Across Borders.

Under the programme, titled REAP – Realise, Embrace, Achieve Your Purpose – Agri-Tech Entrepreneurship, some 30 participants were selected from a pool of 120 applicants for rigorous training over two months to equip them with the knowledge of technology to improve current farming practices, incorporating supply-chain management, promoting food security and boosting resilience to natural disasters and pandemics.

“We had nine weeks of virtual agri-technology training, grant selection and distribution, mentoring and business coaching, and this will culminate in June with a virtual Agri-Tech Entrepreneurship Symposium,” said Lanisa Rhoden, founder of YWOP/YMOP.

Following their business pitch, 10 participants – called REAPers – were selected to receive business development grants of $100,000 each to start or further develop their businesses. They were able to purchase equipment, material or access technical support services.

“The programme is focused on strategies that will reduce wastage, increase profits, enable economic empowerment, improve the local economy, provide financial stability, and improve access to affordable food for persons in rural communities,” Rhoden explained.

Beneficiary Keith Peynado, who owns and operates the agro-processing brand Bravura Foods, told The Gleaner that the initiative has equipped him with the requisite knowledge to drive production and allow his business to meet some of its medium- to long-term goals.

“We started business in June 2020, and what we focus on is packaging a mixture of local natural seasoning and spices. We have two brands under Bravura, which are Nutta Butta and Nuff ‘N’ Sassy. We have things like ground scallion and Scotch bonnet pepper and a mix of other produce,” said Peynado.

The business owner, who currently supplies a few supermarkets and restaurants, is hoping that an application of the knowledge will augur well for him in the coming years.

“We were taught all aspects of entrepreneurship – marketing, sales, business pitch, and, of course, we got a grant of $100,000, which has helped us to purchase raw material to build productivity. The market is there and we are now just looking at boosting production to supply those markets. We currently operate from home, so our main plan is to find a physical location for processing and increasing production to supply the market,” he said.

The participants engaged are active in the areas of: hydroponics, aquaponics, crop production, livestock, beekeeping, vertical and backyard farming. A few are into the development of technologies to enhance agricultural businesses, product development – natural haircare line and cosmetic products made from agricultural produce.

Rhoden said the success of the programme will be measured by using surveys to capture how the programme has increased their knowledge as well as any difference in status of business, employee numbers and revenue prior to and after engaging in the programme.