Harnessing the power of innovation, leading “agripreneurs” – entrepreneurs in agriculture – are using research and development to deliver health benefits and food security to consumers. Stacy Seeterram and Sophia Stone reveal the health benefits of Caribbean Cure teas, and Christian Young Sing explains how he operates a sustainable farming business
by Jeanette G. Awai
Published in CONTACT Magazine
Sometimes, to modernise business, you have to look back at cultural traditions. That’s what Stacy Seeterram and Sophia Stone did with Caribbean Cure’s line of teas. They took Caribbean “bush tea” and turned it into a hand-crafted premium product.
By keeping it 100% natural, with no additives or flavourings, Caribbean Cure made its healing loose-leaf teas stand out on the global market. The successful pairing of familiar ingredients like mauby, moringa, ginger and turmeric, with traditional tea ingredients using a special dehydration process, created a custom, nutritive and delicious brew.
Two years ago, Stone says, “this was just a dream shared in a kitchen”. But their product gained recognition on a global scale when they were awarded two Global Tea Championships. They also received a SIAL Selection in Innovation award in Paris. That accomplishment was particularly exciting for the entrepreneurial duo: they were up against nearly 3,000 international companies which were far bigger and better-known in European circles than their smaller Caribbean product line.
Getting support from the Caribbean Export Development Agency (CEDA), Stone notes, was “exceptionally lucky, and helped expose our products internationally. As two women in agro-processing and export, we have benefitted from CEDA’s WE-Xport programme (supporting Caribbean women in business), and have also worked hard to build our brand locally and internationally through partnerships and relationship building. We were also participants in the Shell LiveWIRE programme, among others that have assisted us in getting to the next phase of growth in business.”
Preparing for export
To make Caribbean tea an international phenomenon, Caribbean Cure had to hold their product to the highest standards. “We have ensured that our packaging, ingredients and processes go a step above by solving the challenge of ‘superfood teas’ which actually contain healing properties and are of exceptionally high quality. We wanted to create a high-end product that uses the very best ingredients and offers consumers a truly premium loose-leaf tea experience that showcases the indigenous gifts that are part of the regional agricultural industry.”
Creating new blends, new ingredients, and new tea experiences – including a new tea-bag line – are just some of the things we can look forward to from Caribbean Cure. Currently, the two entrepreneurs are working on a joint venture in Japan, where they will be manufacturing blends for sale in the Asian markets by late 2019.
Keeping things CRISP
For the CEO of Epilimnion Aquaculture Limited, Christian Young Sing, innovation started six years ago, when he decided to take a fresh look at the science of agriculture. His retail brand, CRISP, offers customers three types of locally-grown baby lettuce in its gourmet salad and microgreen mixes – kale, purple cabbage and arugula.
Young Sing uses recirculating hydroponic technology, a growing method that is crop-specific and optimised for each plant’s needs, using LED grow-lights to attain higher yields. 90% of the water is reused in CRISP’s farming, which is a great eco-friendly alternative to traditional growing methods where water is single-use.
CRISP strives to maintain a high-quality sustainable product down to the compostable “vegware” packaging. But the operation is not without its challenges. Young Sing warns: “If production is not forecast and executed to meet demand, a shortfall will cost you clients, and inversely a surplus will many times result in a glut of wasted produce. This, in part, is why farming is such an unforgiving business.”
However, the company’s science-based approach gives it a competitive edge by growing non-traditional crops suitable for Trinidad and Tobago’s climate. As a local supplier, CRISP can provide fresher produce with a longer shelf life to both restaurants and caterers, and to supermarket chains and gourmet stores.
From idea to innovation
A “calculated jump” into entrepreneurship kick-started Young Sing’s entrepreneurial spirit back in 2012, when he won the Idea to Innovation (i2i) competition. The grant he was awarded helped to establish the business, by reinvesting profits generated through focused product selection and client targeting. Moving forward, this model is the benchmark Young Sing wants to continue using.
Ultimately, the goal is to expand the facility into a large-scale commercial operation which can broaden its products from niche-market items to high-volume vegetable crops, using cutting-edge technology to manipulate the growing environment.
The local environment, however, still has some work to do to keep innovators like Young Sing from becoming frustrated with technical hiccups. He recommends that businesses like his can benefit from streamlined applications for permits and incentives; regular online dissemination of up-to-date information; resolving land acquisition issues; and providing tax incentives for farmers. He encourages other entrepreneurs to push forward like a scientist would, by “having a sound framework and realistic thought process to support your business idea. This will help you gain confidence in your product and attain successful outcomes.”