The College of Agriculture, Science and Education is set to receive a major boost to strengthen its Agricultural Department through the provision of some $6m in grants and loans from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
The disclosure was made Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Robert Montague during a tour of the school, his alma mater, on Thursday.
He said in the spirit of pushing agriculture as a business venture, the ministry will provide a $2m interest free loan to be repaid within 12 months to the college to resuscitate its pepper mash facility.
In addition, he will once again make available a greenhouse unit which was not previously acquired. In order to do so, the institution has been instructed to provide, within 21 days, a proposal detailing how the infrastructure would be utilised.
Assistance will also be given to the institution's piggery unit with the pumping of some $1m into the facility. The monies will be made available through donations received from the islands importers who have pledged some $4.25m so far to develop agricultural projects within five high schools across the island.
"I am giving that money to the piggery unit because improving the subsector is one of my target areas for growth," the minister explained.
To boost the country's food security agenda, Minister Montague outlined that he has asked that tests be conducted to determine the feasibility of storing locally grown fruits, as such, he will be exploring the possibility of constructing an experimental modified controlled atmospheric storage unit at the institution.
"We are in the hurricane belt and by using measured gases in a storage facility we can amass and store food for a long time without spoilage by manipulating natural gases," the minister informed.
Plans are also in place to further promote agriculture as a business activity with the establishment of a $750,000 business unit at the facility to drive the process of building, facilitating and improving entrepreneurial skills within the agricultural unit.
Additionally, some $2m will be spent on improving the unit's dairy programme and to rehabilitate pastures. Serge Island Dairies has also committed to donate 10 pregnant heifers in order to improve milking capacity, combined, this will provide 20 cows for milking purposes.
The school's tuck shop will also be equipped with new refrigerators and fully stocked for operations, while two industrial washing machines will be installed on the dorms.
For her part, acting president of CASE, Rev Dr Mary Nichols, expressed gratitude for the assistance and assured the minister that the funds will be efficiently and effectively utilised.