Panama City, Panama. On April 24th the first phase of the Training, Scholarship and Employment for Agricultural Students Program was launched, consisting of an educational tour targeted at the junior and senior year students from Technical and Professional Institutes (IPTs).
The first tour took place at the Simply Natural Farms plantation in Coclé, where they were shown the 20-acre greenhouse and surrounding farms. There, the students learned about the company’s processes and identified learning opportunities. The tour was kicked-off with 32 junior and senior year students from the José de Los Reyes Vásquez Technical and Professional Institute of El Caimito in the province of Coclé. The next tours will take place on May 8th from students from IPT La Pintada; May 17th with El Colegio Agroforestal de Calobre; and the last one is scheduled for students of IPT Omar Torrijos Herrera on June 13th.
“This is a program designed to generate both short and long-term impacts on the participating students. And we are proud to say that we are providing 120 tour opportunities in our initial year to achieve those goals,” said Verónica Rocha, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Simply Natural Farms.
The program begins with a motivational speech delivered by Simply Natural Farms President Alan Winstead, where he emphasizes the importance of fighting for our dreams and encourages them to apply for the program, which opens every year. giving graduates the opportunity to achieve their professional goals.
During these tours, Simply Natural agronomist Jesús Manuel D’Lima Oviedo and Head of Irrigation Systems Department Eyal Shlain conduct a demonstration of the SupPlant irrigation system employed by Simply Natural Farms. SupPlant is the state-of-the-art irrigation system technology that uses artificial intelligence (AI), capable of analyzing data generated from the crops through multiple sensors and converting this data with the help of sophisticated algorithms in irrigation commands. Students receive a presentation on how the sensors work, the remote computer monitoring, pumps and irrigation phases.
The students are then transported to the 20-acre greenhouse where Manager Orian Shalev and Supervisor Danilo Peñaloza show the students around the melon and cucumber growing area and explain why Simply Natural Farms melons are grown vertically, the benefits of production indoors, production techniques and the harvesting process.
They also receive an explanation of how different varieties of mango are grafted. A demonstration is provided showing how to perform a graft and one of the students is given the opportunity to complete their own.
The explanation is provided by the Nursery Supervisor, Maickel Aparicio, the Manager of the Los Olivos Farm Itamar Vilan, and the Mango Crop Supervisor Bayron Rodríguez.
Students also receive instructions on the mango cultivation process with an explanation about how the pruning process optimizes production and makes harvest more efficient, why they are cultivated into ridges and a discussion about tree phenology.
Finally, the tour is complemented with comments from the program coordinator of the Technological University (OTEIMA) on how Simply Natural Farms, in agreement with Universidad Tecnológica (OTEIMA), offers academic opportunities for those who satisfactorily pass the program evaluation process.
More than a just a tour.
“My favorite part of these educational tours is talking about professional and personal goals with these amazing students,” said Mr. Winstead. “I recall that on our first tour, at the very beginning of the day 10 of the 32 students said they wanted to work as police officers while the rest had the intention of pursuing a career in agriculture or animal health. At the end of the day, those 10 future police officers said they wanted to also become professionals in the agricultural sector and work for Simply Natural Farms. There is no doubt we have commercial objectives but, for me, the most satisfactory part of the job is to be an agent of change and progress, contributing to the communities that surround us. We do not only offer a didactic tour; Simply Natural Farms offers a chance to change lives,“ said Mr. Winstead.