Jamaican Olympian inspires young farmers with his use of unconventional soilless agricultural technology

Features > The Caribbean

By STEM Caribbean | Posted on August 6, 2019

Former Jamaican athlete, Ricardo Chambers, has managed to transition from a decorated track and field career to an exciting career involving advancing technologies with his own business, Chambers Hydro Farm. On the track, he ran mainly 400m races, breaking records and winning several medals. Years ago, he left his hometown, Trelawny Jamaica, to study at Florida State University and competed at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships. Ricardo eventually decided to switch careers in 2016 and took up agriculture on a full-time basis. He courageously chose an untraditional method of growing crops using hydroponics technology as a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly alternative.

Ricardo Chambers

Hydroponic agriculture is the use of a water-based nutrient solution to grow plants. This type of farming usually has higher yields and uses less water than soil-based systems. Yahoo Finance estimates that the market for hydroponic systems is at USD 8.08 billion in 2019 and projects that it will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 12.1%, reaching USD 16.03 billion by 2025. 

Around the world, farmers are gravitating to hydroponics because of the affordability and minimal space requirements when compared to traditional soil-based systems. Hydroponics farms can either be indoors (greenhouses) or outdoors. Today greenhouses have been developed to be smart and fully automated. Internal conditions such as light, humidity, temperature, and irrigation levels, can all be controlled remotely. Hydroponic farming is a hopeful alternative where conditions for growing crops are difficult, in the Arctic regions, for example.

Chambers Hydro Farm, Ricardo Chambers
Ricardo Chambers

One of the benefits of hydroponic agriculture is low labour cost. Using this technology, Ricardo is on a mission to revolutionize agriculture in Jamaica. He currently works by himself and hires others only if necessary as he collects data and shares any useful information with other farmers.  Before starting his hydroponic farm, Ricardo obtained a wealth of knowledge about agriculture by visiting farms in the United States, attending courses, and researching how the technology was employed in places with similar conditions to that of Jamaica. He’s currently a 2019 Nutramix Youth in Agriculture ambassador and is an inspiration to young aspiring farmers.

In the future, Ricardo would like to mass-produce grapes and strawberries in Jamaica. Read more below about his journey to agriculture and what he wants young people to know about the field.

What motivated you to pursue a career in agriculture? When did you decide to make that bold move?

My interest for agriculture really started to develop from me encouraging other farmers to try using different methods of farming.  What motivates me the most to pursue a career in agriculture is my mission to revolutionize agriculture in Jamaica. In summer of 2016 I decided that I’m going to step away from tracks to fully focus on agriculture.

There are several alternative farming systems existing today. Why did you choose to use hydroponics?

I choose hydroponics because this type of farming can help us address our climate change problems that’s affecting us in the Caribbean, especially drought.

What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them?

One of the biggest challenge for me is accessing land. I was staying at my friend’s house while searching for land. After many attempts and still didn’t find land, I asked him if I could build the farm on a piece of unoccupied land at the side of his house until I can find a more suitable location and that’s were the farm now located.

Any future goals for Chambers Hydro Farm?

The future goals for Chambers Hydro Farm is to mass produce strawberries and grapes in Jamaica.

What advice do you have for young people considering careers in agriculture?

My biggest advice for anyone considering careers in agriculture is that agriculture is very very lucrative and with the technology and the internet agriculture is now easier and very sexy

Chambers Hydro Farm, Ricardo Chambers

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