Aquaculture graduates eye entrepreneurship

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

From left Xavier Fortune, Ajay Wallen, Shiel Williams Caroline Ramnath, Jervon Hospedales, Dylan Chadee and Saran Toby made the Dean’s Honour Roll list, at the Ministry of Youth Development and National Service’s Youth Aquaculture Rewards & Recognition Ceremony, at the California Youth Development Centre, Couva on April 8. – Photo by Angelo Marcelle

FIFTY-SIX students graduated from the Youth Aquaculture Project on April 8, and top performers hope to use the knowledge acquired over the last year to embark on new agricultural endeavours.

Ajay Wallen, 35, grew up with parents who often plant around their El Dorado home. Around five years ago, he developed an interest in aquaculture – breeding, rearing and harvesting fish, shellfish, algae, and other organisms in all types of water environments.

That’s why Wallen, an offshore deckhand, jumped at the opportunity offered by a project hosted by the Ministry of Youth Development and National Service and facilitated by UWI.

It’s perhaps why he also took home the most awards for outstanding performance at the April 8 graduation ceremony.

Already rearing around 20 koi, Walden said he plans to use his knowledge to convert his hobby into a source of income.

“Now I have more insight on how to actually properly make a system and take care of a fish (well) enough so that I could sell it,” he said.

Wallen was recognised as the most outstanding male student in principles of aquaculture production, system design and construction, water quality management in aquaculture systems, and production and management of selected fish and shellfish species. He was also awarded for the best overall performance in semester one and for his attendance.

Receiving four awards on April 8 was Shiel Williams, 24. She has a bachelor’s degree in coast and ocean sciences from the University of TT, and hopes to work with shrimp.

“Most of the water that’s found on the earth’s surface is salt – over 97 per cent of it. (But) what I’ve noticed thus far is that most of the training that we have is in freshwater.

“While that’s good, it’s only inevitable, if you want to achieve a sustainable goal of ending world hunger and boosting our exports and GDP, that we go into saltwater production.

“I would use the foundation I have in marine science and join it and go into the mariculture of shrimp.”

She was awarded for her outstanding performance in water quality management in aquaculture systems and production and management of selected fish & shellfish species. She also received an award for her overall performance in semester one and for her leadership.

Minister of Youth Development and National Service Foster Cummings said the programme was born out of a June 2022 visit to Guyana to develop the local agricultural sector to improve the region’s food security.

“As we travel and we engage with regional and international bodies, other ministries and governments internationally, Trinidad and Tobago stands out as one of the countries, although a small developing state, that is giving significant resources towards youth development and the participation of youth…in agriculture.

“I therefore wish again, to express thanks and appreciation to all those brave and dedicated young men and women who continue to take advantage of these opportunities, who have joined us in the journey to make agriculture attractive and sexy for the young people of Trinidad and Tobago.”

The Youth Aquaculture Project is a youth-focused, one-year, full-time training programme for nationals between 16 and 35. They learnt the skills to become successful agri-entrepreneurs in the field of aquaculture. Those who complete the programme receive certification in tropical aquaculture production and management from UWI.