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The Grow Room Initiative

After decades of steady decline, the number of people who suffer from hunger, as measured by the prevalence of undernourishment, began to slowly increase again in 2015.

Current estimates show that nearly 690 million people are hungry, or 8.9 per cent of the world’s population, up by 10 million people in one year and by nearly 60 million in five years. The Covid-19 pandemic has now doubled that number, placing an additional 130 million people at risk of suffering acute hunger by the end of 2022.

With more than a quarter of a billion people potentially at the brink of starvation, swift action needs to be taken to provide food and humanitarian relief to the most at-risk regions.

At the same time, a profound change of the global food and agriculture system is needed if we are to nourish the more than 690 million people who are hungry today, and the additional 2 billion people the world will have by 2050.

Increasing agricultural productivity and sustainable food production are crucial to help alleviate the perils of hunger.

Agricultural systems worldwide must become more productive and less wasteful. Sustainable agricultural practices and food systems, including both production and consumption, must be pursued from a holistic, integrated, modern and technology-driven perspective.

Rainforest Agricultural Consultancy is an organisation which seeks to encourage the development of technology-driven agriculture for the sustainable production of pesticide-free food, promoting food security in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean.

The Grow Room Initiative Project, launched December 30, 2021, took into consideration the Sustainable Development Goals through Vision 2030. The objectives of this project were to boost the food security of the country by significant new investment in agriculture within the prison system; to encourage technology-driven agriculture in the coming years, and to retain and create jobs for women after they leave prison.

The grow room comprises a seed bank, seeding station and three hydroponic systems where pesticide-free food can be produced under grow-light technology. The room has the capacity to facilitate the growth of a crop from seed to seedling to crop, where the farm-to-table concept can be adhered to in a convenient and efficient way.

The grow room consists of 50 different varieties of crops including tropical and temperate fruit, leafy vegetables, herbs, and fruiting crops.

The operations of the grow room allow users to sustainably produce food without the concern of natural disasters, ever-changing weather conditions, pest and diseases and the many other challenges that are faced by farmers practising traditional agriculture.

The room is user friendly for all girls, teenagers and women who wish to pursue agri-entrepreneurship.

This project will be scaled, not just to all prisons, but as a model for commercial hydroponic production. The outcome of the project allows incarcerated women to have a feasible option for self-employment, reduces the amount spent on feeding inmates; promotes the education of women in penal reform on modern agricultural technologies; and promotes penal reform through agriculture in the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service.

The project was funded by the United Nations Development Programme and the designs, engineering and technology for the grow room were done by Solaris Greenhouse Agricultures Ltd.

The Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service is now the first in the Caribbean to adopt the agricultural technology as they embark on setting an excellent example for the prioritisation of food security and sustainability in our country.

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