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29 Apr 2024 • Agro-Industry

Advancing Smart Agriculture in Mauritius with Controlled Environment Techniques for food security

In a collaborative effort to address Mauritius’ ongoing challenges in food security, the Economic Development Board (EDB) and Mauritius Institute Biotechnology Ltd (MIBL) organised a workshop focused on Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) on Tuesday 23rd April, 2024. Bringing together a diverse group of 60 participants, including stakeholders from the private sector, farmers, students, and key authorities, the event aimed to foster dialogue and innovation in the agricultural sector.

While agriculture’s share to GDP has fallen over the past decades, it remains nevertheless a significant sector, contributing 4.1% to the GDP. However, the country’s heavy reliance on food imports, combined with challenges such as climate change, global crises like Covid-19, and geopolitical tensions, highlights the need for adaptive and resilient agricultural practices. This workshop represented a proactive step towards addressing these pressing issues by exploring alternative approaches to food production and fostering collaboration among various stakeholders.

Dr. Mandar Godge, a seasoned expert from Global Resources and Agricultural Innovations Network International (GRAIN), a pioneering Ag-Biotech firm, with over two decades of experience in CEA. He led the discussions with engaging presentations, sharing valuable insights and practical knowledge. His contributions shed light on innovative agricultural practices, offering solutions to the challenges faced in Mauritius, while addressing the specific complexities of CEA. Participants had the opportunity to gain valuable insights into innovative techniques for cultivating crops within controlled environments, such as indoor farming, aquaponics, and vertical farming.

The workshop also featured two insightful panel discussions focusing on critical aspects of CEA implementation: financial and incentive structures, and the creation of an enabling conducive environment.

Key highlights of the discussion panels included funding opportunities and investment mechanisms available to support CEA initiatives; the necessity of creating an enabling environment to facilitate the adoption of CEA practices; infrastructural support required to facilitate the widespread integration of CEA technologies in Mauritius such as education and skill development and nurturing of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Emphasis was also placed on collaboration between government agencies, research institutions, and industry stakeholders to streamline processes and remove barriers to entry for aspiring CEA entrepreneurs.

In his presentation, Dr. Mandar Godge highlighted: “By harnessing technology and adopting sustainable practices, Mauritius can strengthen its food security and reduce dependence on imports. However, this transformation is a gradual process, and such initiatives will require a concerted effort across the agricultural value chain, with strong emphasis on collaboration and knowledge-sharing among stakeholders.”

Mr Sachin Mohabeer, Deputy CEO of EDB also concurred with this idea, as he mentioned: “Prioritizing environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and economic viability in agriculture is essential for creating a sustainable and regenerative system that benefits both people and the planet. To truly transform agriculture in Mauritius, we must provide the right ecosystem for success. This includes offering incentives, access to finance, training programs, research facilities, and the availability of suitable land for agricultural activities.”

Additionally, the DCEO indicated that promoting agriculture as a viable career choice and showcasing modern technologies and innovative practices can attract tech-savvy individuals to contribute to the transformation of the sector in Mauritius.

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