At the beginning of the month, Levo Field Scientist Nate Heiden wrapped up two months on the ground in Pignon with the help of Advisory Board member and consulting chemist, Mark Meyering. They did a tremendous amount of field science and set up the LEvo operation for the next stage of development. Levo is grateful for their hard work and dedication. Nate’s reflection on that hectic last week gives a glimpse into both the stress and hopefulness of our work.
This was probably the most intense week of all. Mark and I actually ended up extended my stay by 5 days so that we could finish up our last bit of training and adjustments. Mark has really dug into the chemistry immediately and he began to investigate the fertilizer recipe and schedule we had been using. He has come up with some changes, that will undoubtedly help us to be more effective and efficient in how much fertilizer we use moving forward. Mark, Kely, Claudin, and I have continued to work together to come up with improved sanitation and planting techniques to prevent infection of plants with some diseases and pests that are unique to the carribean climate. This led Mark and I on an adventure to Hinch, a large town about an hour away from Pignon, by motorcycle.
We went from pharmacy to pharmacy, armed with only rudimentary Creole and our determination. While there, Mark and I visited about twenty pharmacies to find as much hydrogen peroxide as we could. We were very successful, though it definitely took some perseverance with our meager knowledge of Creole. We wanted to acquire the hydrogen peroxide as a preventative defense against the fungus that we have diagnosed as afflicting a great number of our pepper plants. Preventing this infection will be a major part of our specific strategic improvements. Additionally, that locally-sourced hydrogen peroxide will help us prevent several potential maladies in our plants.
We had a meeting with Mark, Kely, Claudin, Micah, and me in which we discussed the systems and brainstormed ideas for tweaks to the systems and to our protocol. The meeting was really helpful as it allowed everyone to weigh in on what they liked about our process as well as room for changes. It also allowed for us to clear up any points of confusion. We then agreed on a few improvements to our design that I proposed. For example, we buried the reservoir tanks and increased shade coverage to lower water temperature. We also changed the fertilizer protocol to include a measurement of the conductivity of the water, so that fertilizer was only added when necessary. With the help of the other team members, I drafted a revised set of protocols and put together a binder with data spreadsheets. This will streamline our data-taking and compiling process in the future. We also nailed down which data would be important for us to be tracking.
The final step was to go through all of the new information with Kely and Claudin, so they could raise any questions. I set up a very concrete communication plan with Micah, which is a huge win! The final few days were mostly spent ensuring that everyone understood the new protocols and how to implement them.
Finally, we headed back to the United States. Our trip began by taking a van on the five-hour drive south to Port-au-Prince through mountain switchbacks and dirt roads. Those five hours would qualify as an adventure, even without the preceding two months!