By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) will create a business incubator to help agricultural producers seeking financing or joint venture opportunities.
Dr Omer Thomas, an agricultural expert and the Government’s special consultant on BAMSI, told Tribune Business that the Institute was establishing a business incubator which would take expressions of interest in the agricultural sector, convert them into project proposals and assist persons in obtaining financing via a joint venture partnership.
Following a forum last Thursday to launch the initiative, Dr Thomas said: “The forum was to expose Bahamian people to the business opportunities that exist in agriculture. We call it the new renaissance in agriculture.
“We had 320 persons come to the forum. Out of that 320, I think we had 120 expressions of interest in investing in some of the areas which we have identified. The areas we have identified are crop agriculture, opportunities in livestock agriculture, opportunities in aquaculture, opportunities in the marine areas, and then opportunities to provide businesses to support the services for agriculture.
“Those would include tractor services, transportation services, laboratory and testing services, and the services to provide feed for animals. That is, investing in feed mills and fertilizer mills, and then agro-processing opportunities using local materials.”
Dr Thomas added: “BAMSI is establishing a business incubator, and will take the expressions of interest and convert them into project proposals that will assist those persons to seek financing or a partnership with a joint-venture partner, or if there is a banking institution which would like to finance in some way or form, or we could seek external partners who would like to participate in investment in these areas. It’s strictly private sector business. We are simply the facilitator of this business development.”
Dr Thomas said that through BAMSI, the Government had been able to demonstrate that agriculture was not farming alone. “Farming is critical for primary agricultural production, but there are others aspects which are not farming but are critical to national development,” said Dr Thomas.
“We highlighted that. You don’t have to be a farmer to invest in the farming aspect of agriculture; you just have to be a business person and employ the skills around you.”
He added: “We intend to put 25,000 pounds of bananas every week into the market. We have no experts here to grow bananas at that level, so we went to Jamaica and took a farm manager who was managing 1,200 acres of bananas for export to London.
“We took him and he is now going to grow 100 acres of bananas for us. He is going to generate almost $3 million worth of money per year in banana production for the Bahamas and export. While we are doing that we are putting Bahamians to sit with them and learn, so that after the third year they can return to where they came from and Bahamians can take over and run it. That is is the plan I had designed.”