A new approach to tackling soil and water challenges in the Caribbean

A man using a hosepipe to water fields
Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship - Caribbean Vetiver TT
The author Gizelle Riley smiles at camera
by Gizelle Riley
11 March 2020

According to the World Bank, the Blue Economy is driven by the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and ocean ecosystem health.

To promote the growth of this all-important economy the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship is supporting entrepreneurs committed to tackling ocean problems and building sustainable businesses that support ocean health in the Caribbean.

Jonathan and Daniel Barcant are the founders of Vetiver TT – and they’re two of the newest members of the Branson Centre’s 2020 Blue Economy programme. 

Virgin Unite photo
Image from Vetiver TT

Through Vetiver TT and its unique erosion control solutions, Jonathan and Daniel are working to protect the marine environment across Trinidad. Gizelle Riley, development and communications manager at the Branson Centre, recently had a chat with Jonathan about the company’s unique bioengineering tool and about how the Branson Centre is supporting the growth of the business...

Tell us about Vetiver TT.

Vetiver TT provides green and cost effective plant-based solutions to solve soil and water related challenges. We combine geo-technical and water resource engineering with the use of vetiver grass – this combination creates our unique bioengineering tool. Vetiver grass’ fibrous root system (which grows up to 10 ft deep within two years) helps with slope stabilisation, erosion control, soil and water conservation and infrastructure protection. We think of it like natural retaining walls that cost 20-30 per cent less than the price of rock, steel and concrete.

Through Vetiver TT we’re able to help clients save significant amounts of money and implement green, sustainable, and more attractive solutions – compared to the more expensive, traditional methods. We supply the design and install the solutions to residential, commercial and public works projects. We also work in the NGO space, taking our solutions to rural communities and farmers on hillside lands.

Why did you decide to join the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship?

When I learned about the Blue Economy programme, I knew it was perfect for our growth as a green enterprise. The programme provided networking opportunities and training geared toward investment readiness. 

Entering the programme was especially timely for us as we’re currently working toward starting projects in other Caribbean islands. Alongside our sister organisation, the IAMovement, we will be carrying projects over the next three years in Dominica, St Lucia, Antigua and Tobago. As we scale regionally we expect to develop a franchise model based on the products and services we offer. 

Two men standing together
Image from Vetiver TT

Where did your passion for environmental conversation come from?

I am a civil engineer specialising in soils, water and environment, and after graduating I began working with a large engineering firm in Canada where our biggest clients were in the mining industry. 

I had the chance to work internationally and I saw some good project examples in certain parts of the world, but also some very destructive ones. One that I remember saw 10,000 acres of virgin rainforest being taken down to build an open pit copper mine. This experience drove me to face some bigger inner decisions and ultimately to shift my career to environmental conservation and climate action. I soon discovered vetiver grass – and then Vetiver TT was born! 

What is the most important thing that running a business has taught you?

One of the most important things that running a business has taught me is the immense value of good human resources. Good team members play such a critical role in business success. 

I’ve also gained an appreciation of the very large range of tasks and areas of expertise needed to run a business as well as the value and strength of growing your team and having different personal to handle different roles and responsibilities.

A field with long grasses and trees
Image from Vetiver TT

How does your business benefit the wider community?

Vetiver TT is a green and social focused business and all of our projects directly contribute to a better and healthier environment. Vetiver TT requires the installation of hundreds (and often thousands) of plants to stabilise soil, prevent erosion and treat contaminated water. We also work directly on social projects, contributing our solutions and training community members who need them (but who often cannot afford them). 

Our social impact and ability to work closely with communities in need is made possible through the unique development model called the ‘Vetiver Educational and Empowerment Programme’ (VEEP). Through VEEP we work closely with community groups, NGOs, development agencies and government entities.What does the future hold for Vetiver TT?

We are hoping for future success in the provision of green engineering solutions to clients of all sizes across the Caribbean. We’d like to place ourselves on the world map as a consulting, educational, and mobile training firm, helping to develop cost-effective and green solutions for projects and places all over the world.

Do you want to grow your own ocean friendly business? Click here to learn more about Branson Centre’s blue economy programme.