Mauritius: Protected Agriculture/Hydroponics Boost Innovative and Climate Resilient Agricultural Systems Across Mauritius
The establishment of protected farms, in line with government policy to stimulate agricultural innovation and promote sustainable agriculture and local food production of fruits and vegetables, is gaining popularity in Mauritius.
For two years, some 59 planters have benefited from the protected agriculture scheme offered by the Food and Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (FAREI), for the construction of greenhouses financed to the tune of Rs 15.9 million while the subsidy was Rs 250,000. During these two years, FAREI, which operates under the supervision of the Ministry of Agro-Industry and Food Security and is the executing agency of the protected agriculture system, has received more than 200 applications under this scheme.
However, the 2022/23 budget includes a booster plan to further encourage the production of fruits and vegetables by granting 50% up to a maximum of Rs 500,000, for the purchase of a sheltered farm for hydroponics and in extending it to purchase a second sheltered farm. VAT exemption is also granted on the purchase of these.
Indeed, for the financial year 2022/23, a sum of Rs 50 million has been allocated to further encourage producers to adopt this ecological production method which considerably reduces the use of insecticides and pesticides.
Already, more than 50 applications for the Rs 500,000 grant program are being processed by FAREI. The beneficiaries are, among others, planters registered with the Small Planters Welfare Fund (SFWF), operating in the agro-industrial sector and engaged in the production of high value/horticultural and food crops on a minimum area of 0.5 arpent. .
Protected agriculture in Mauritius
Traditionally in agriculture, explains Mr. A. Goolaub who is Ag. Managing Director of FAREI, farmers grow produce in the open field but, over time, climate change, pest and disease attacks have had an impact on field production.
So with the introduction of greenhouse farming, which is a concept where produce is grown in a structure, either a greenhouse with a plastic roof or an insect-proof greenhouse, the plants are protected insects and bad weather, he says. The quality of vegetables grown under cover is also even better compared to those grown in the open field, he says.
As for hydroponic greenhouse cultivation systems, he specifies that the plants are supplied with mineral nutrients, thus allowing better production.
In Mauritius, protected agriculture started in 2000 with about ten greenhouses producing mainly tomatoes and English cucumbers. Currently, about 60 hectares are under hydroponic cultivation, generating about 10,000 tons of products per year.
What is hydroponia ?
Hydroponics is the growing of plants without using soil. The word hydroponics is derived from two Greek words: “hydro” (water) and “ponos” (work). Hydroponic flowers, herbs and vegetables are planted in inert growing media and supplied with solutions rich in nutrients, oxygen and water. This system promotes rapid growth, higher yields and superior quality.
While fruits and vegetables grow in the ground in the traditional way, hydroponics grows mainly in greenhouses or in closed and controlled environments.
Hydroponics requires fewer pesticides and herbicides, which translates into healthier foods to eat. Other benefits are water and space savings.
Crops that are grown hydroponically are: beans, cucumbers, lettuce, melon, snow peas, bell peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, and ornamental plants such as gerberas and roses.
Setting up a hydroponic system
An area of about 400 m2 is needed for a 270 m2 hydroponic unit. In addition to the space required for the greenhouse, the remaining land is intended for the pumping station, the construction of a concrete platform for a water tank and a store.
It is important to respect certain conditions for setting up a hydroponic system, including: flat or level ground; permanent water supply; power supply; skilled/trained workforce.
Additionally, the prospective grower should avail themselves of the necessary equipment and materials to start a hydroponic system, including: greenhouse structure, UV-treated plastic sheet, and insect-proof netting; Fertigation system; Hydroponic fertilizers; Growing media; Seeds and substrate (for the production of seedlings); Weighing scale – electronic and spring scale; pH-meter, EC-meter, thermometer and hygrometer; Water pump; Generator in case of power failure; Clips, hooks and rope for plant support (trellising); pesticides; and, Disinfectants.
Local farmer, Mr. Sanjay Proag of Camp de Masque Pavé, who has been cultivating land in the open field for 20 years and producing mainly pineapples, bananas and vegetables, has turned to protected agriculture since 2017. He employs a ten people who work in his protected farm which produces tomatoes, English cucumbers, aubergines and strawberries which are all marketed locally in supermarkets around Mauritius.
Mr. Proag started his project with an area of 2000 m2 and took advantage of the protected agriculture scheme when the grant was Rs 250,000. In a protected agriculture, he says, produce is grown throughout the year with less pesticides, involving less labor and more produce is grown compared to open field cultivation.
While he believes that the initial establishment of a protected agriculture system was a bit difficult because it required a lot of investment, he nevertheless affirms that this challenge was overcome with the support of the Ministry of Agribusiness and Food Security through the provision of the grant of Rs 250,000. This aid, he said, has brought relief in many ways, especially in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, when several sectors had been affected and funds were scarce.
The local farmer also highlights his willingness to expand his protected farming project in the future in order to progress and therefore benefit from the protected farming scheme of Rs 500,000 in this venture.
Modalities for the application of the protected agriculture regime
Eligible applicants who wish to avail the scheme should complete and submit the appropriate application form along with supporting documents to the nearest sub-offices of the Food and Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (FAREI) for further process.
Relevant documents to submit include: copy of SFWF registration card; copy of identity card; copy of relevant permits, licenses authorizing agricultural activities; proof of financing for the amount remaining on the proposed investment; and, quote from the supplier(s).
Beneficiaries will be required to sign an agreement with the Ministry of Agro-Industry and Food Security (represented by FAREI) upon approval of their respective requests for financial support.
Application forms are available at all FAREI agricultural extension sub-offices in Mauritius.
agricultural extension office
Long Mountain Sub-Office
Mapou Model Farm
Rivière du Rempart sub-office
Welcome Hall sub-office (Wednesday only)
Flacq model farm
413 8125/413 4617
Beau Champ sub-office (Mondays only)
St Pierre sub-office
433 9350/433 4378
House of Breeders (Henrietta)
Union Park Sub-Office
Anguilles River Model Farm
Plaisance demonstration center