With the announcement of the first capacity-accelerating loan through UVI Research and Technology Park’s Catalyst Fund, Peter Chapman, chief executive officer, brought technology and agriculture together today to address a significant and universal need directly from the kitchen. The money will allow Brooklyn-based Farmshelf to launch Farmshelf Labs, an RTPark member, in the US Virgin Islands.
Anyone can produce leafy greens, herbs, and blooming crops everywhere they live, work or dine thanks to Farmshelf’s bookcase-sized, intelligent indoor farms. They are strong enough to supply pounds of fresh produce each week while being tiny enough to fit into a restaurant or household. Farmshelf is creating a change in the way that communities generate and distribute fresh produce.
Chapman observes, “In addition to the need to diversify the local economy, a strong desire to improve local food production is what drives RTPark’s concentration on ag-tech. One barrier to increased local economic independence and the stabilization of comparably high food costs is the fact that the USVI imports approximately 98% of its food items.”
The company’s goal is to make it possible for everyone to produce their own food wherever they are, which will be a game-changing breakthrough for import-intensive regions with little domestic food production and little arable land, like the US Virgin Islands. Farmshelf creates the smart farms in Brooklyn, New York, and works with a company that hires US veterans to produce them in Poughkeepsie, New York.
Additionally, they provide a monthly membership that contains everything required to successfully cultivate 60 various crops, including cherry tomatoes, butter lettuce, kale, and arugula, as well as fertilizers and remote monitoring of the units (using dozens of sensors and cameras). Thanks to the Catalyst Fund, Farmshelf Labs, which is situated on St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands, will be able to hire customer success, sales, marketing, plant science, and operations staff starting next month. By the end of the year, the company intends to have eight full-time workers.
“I have been visiting St. Croix for 30 years and have grown quite devoted to not just the culture, people, and natural beauty of the area but also to its current momentum as an exceptional location for business. When my family made the decision to relocate permanently here in 2020, it was instantly clear that a portion of Farmshelf should do the same. We both need the US Virgin Islands, and there is nowhere else I would rather build a tech-driven company that will transform how communities provide for themselves “said Jean-Paul Kyrillos, a co-founder of Farmshelf.
“The prospects that the UVI Research and Technology Park’s Catalyst Fund offers to promote economic success in the territory excite the government of the Virgin Islands. We’re especially happy to welcome Farmshelf to our business community because they share many of the same objectives as our administration, namely growing our resources to ensure the food security of our citizens while utilizing some of the most cutting-edge technology available. The potential to expand this initiative in the area and provide even greater economic benefits to our people is enormous, and this step towards greater self-sufficiency in feeding not only our VI families is significant “Governor Albert Bryan said.
Peter Chapman of RTPark adds that there is still more to come from the Fund. “The Catalyst Fund, which was designed to fund large-scale corporate endeavors and real estate development projects, has just authorized one of its first deals. The Bryan Administration and the 34th Legislature both made sure we received the first financing to start this desperately needed revolving loan pool, for which we are thankful. The Fund primarily offers patient, adaptable gap financing for projects that have the potential to give Virgin Islanders high-quality jobs in areas that are growing and to encourage capital investment in the territory.”
Chief Credit Officer of RTPark, Ronnie N. Johnson, said “New employment possibilities and tax revenues will be produced by the firm and the people engaged as a result of our first Catalyst Fund loan to Farmshelf! We also see the region seeing more retail sales of products and services.”
For the expanding systems and clients of the US-based Farmshelf Corporation, USVI-based Farmshelf will provide remote monitoring services. Farmshelf’s cutting-edge growing systems will reach the US Virgin Islands in February, enabling businesses and individuals to grow their own food and giving students access to technical education and job opportunities.
Image provided by UVI Research and Technology Park Inc.