Simply Natural President Alan Winstead conducted an informational tour and introduction to the Simply Natural Agricultural Training Program on April 24th for 32 junior and senior students of the José de Los Reyes Vásquez Professional and Technical Institute. The Institute is located in El Caimito in Coclé Province. Simply Natural has a cooperative education agreement with the Panama Ministry of Education (MEDUCA) to train students with an interest in farm-related careers. Simply Natural’s Social Responsibility Manager, Veronica Rocha, coordinated the day-long event.
Mr. Winstead kicked off the tour by talking about the importance of working for our dreams and asked each student about their career goals. Simply Natural offers up to 40 technical school students per year the opportunity to complete an agricultural internship and training program which could be the beginning of meeting their professional goals.
The students then moved to the 20-acre greenhouse where Production Manager Orian Shalev showed the melon and cucumber growing area and gave an explanation of why Simply Natural melons are produced vertically, the benefits of having the production under roof, techniques of production and harvest of the fruit.
The students also received an explanation provided by Nursery Supervisor Maickel Aparicio, Los Olivos Farm Manager Itamar Vilan and mango Crop Supervisor Bayron Rodriguez of how different varieties of mango are grafted onto root stock and were shown how to perform the graft. They concluded by giving the opportunity to one of the students to perform their own graft. The students were also instructed on the mango growing process, with a review of how pruning increases production and makes harvesting more efficient, why they are planted in ridges and a discussion of tree phenology (the scientific study of periodic biological phenomena, such as tree flowering, bird migration and insect activity in relation to climatic conditions).
A demonstration of the SupPlant irrigation system used by Simply Natural was conducted by Agronomist Engineer Jesus Manuel D´Lima Oviedo and Chief Irrigation System Manager Eyal Shlain. The state-of-the-art irrigation technology employs artificial intelligence systems capable of analyzing data generated from crops through multiple sensors and translate this data via sophisticated algorithms into irrigation commands. The students received a presentation on the sensors, remote computer irrigation monitoring, pumps and irrigation stages.
The tour was concluded by remarks from the program coordinator of the Universidad Tecnológica de Ordenadores, Tecnologia, Educación, Idiomas, Medio Ambiente y Agro (OTEIMA – the Technological University of Computers, Technology, Education, Languages, Environment and Agro) and an explanation of how additional education is offered by Simply Natural in agreement with OTEIMA for those who satisfactorily pass the evaluation processes.
“My favorite part of the day was talking about occupation goals with these amazing students,” said Mr. Winstead. “At the beginning of the day, 10 of the 32 students said they wanted to be police officers while the balance intended to pursue careers in agriculture or animal health. By the end of the day the 10 future police officers all said they wanted to become agricultural professionals and work for Simply Natural. We obviously have business goals, but for me the most satisfying job is being an agent for change, progress and contributing to communities we live and work in. On that day, we didn’t just offer a tour… Simply Natural offered an opportunity to change lives.”