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“100% Bajan!” This slogan has been resonating to encourage Barbadians to cultivate, manufacture, add value to and utilise local produce in our daily lives. The underlying objectives encompass creating a sustainable environment for local businesses to thrive, improving the island’s food security while reducing its dependency on imports, generating employment, increasing regional and international exports and rebuilding the foreign reserves base. Mr. Richard Armstrong, Managing Director of Armag Manufacturing Ltd. responded to this clarion call by creating the 100% Barbadian-owned business AML in January 2013. The Managing Director proclaimed that “the cry in Barbados over the years has been that we don’t process a lot of the food we eat; we tend to just bring in all the processed food from overseas. So as soon as I was confident that I could supply the market year-round, I took the plunge”. More commonly referred to as “Sunbury Harvest,” the name on its branded products, AML is an agro-processing business located at Sunbury Plantation, St. Philip.

Shortly after setting up the plant, the management team identified a few bottlenecks within the manufacturing process which if rectified could notably enhance efficacy. Consequently, Enterprise Growth Fund Limited (EGFL) played a pivotal role in AML’s development by providing the necessary financing to aid in reengineering, retooling and optimizing the manufacturing process with a view towards energy and operational efficiency, as well as future product and capacity expansion. It took just over a year to complete and test the technologically advanced processing facility

… as soon as I was confident that I could supply the market year-round, I took the plunge.

before full-scale production ensued in February 2014. The facility boasts a 46-kW photovoltaic system, utilises energy efficient equipment and is in the process of replacing its dated fluorescent bulbs with LED lighting to enhance energy savings where feasible. The company specialises in the production of sweet potato fries and cassava flour, but the plant is equipped to process a wider assortment of products and the Manager is currently investigating a few additional product ideas.

With an unwavering desire to serve the domestic market proudly, the client maintains that there is strong emphasis on manufacturing quality and healthy products at competitive prices for local consumption. Over the past 5 years AML’s popularity has soared as consumers and tourists alike have developed a tasteful fondness for Sunbury Harvest’s sweet potato fries; this has been buoyed by robust market feedback. The fries are available in both the white (Bonita) and orange (Evangeline) sweet potato varieties, in a choice of straight and crinkled cuts to meet individual preferences. Management’s attention to the selection of premium inputs and strict production standards ensures that the quality, nutrition and flavour are optimised in every bite. Mr Armstrong asserted that they make an effort to ensure that their product is superior to the imported brands. With an ever-growing demand, the sweet potato fries are now readily available at many of the leading supermarkets and can be ordered from the menus at several restaurants and hotels.

The road can be very rocky. Make sure you have a good product and offer good service …

For an operation of this magnitude to function adequately and satisfactorily fulfil customer requirements, there needs to be a dependable supply of fresh and high-grade sweet potatoes for processing purposes. Reinforcing the adage “100% Bajan”, AML via its sister company Armag Farms Ltd. proudly boasts that it cultivates and harvests all the sweet potatoes utilised in producing its fries. In addition, cassava root is procured from its own fields and local small farmers to facilitate the manufacture of cassava flour which is distributed to a few of its wholesale customers. For the nutritionally conscious, the sweet potato fries are typically touted as being a healthier alternative to traditional French fries, while locally produced cassava flour has become a popular white flour substitute in the preparation of many Barbadian delicacies. At present, the plant produces approximately 3,800 – 4,000 lbs of sweet potato fries weekly; nonetheless, this volume can be easily ramped up if required.

Given AML’s commitment to fulfilling its corporate social responsibility, management is always willing to share knowledge and inspire students from the primary to tertiary level through educational tours of the facility.

As an emerging business operating within a challenging economic climate, AML has endured its fair share of operational struggles along the way. Mr. Armstrong reminded us that entrepreneurship is challenging and management must be ready to identify problems and implement decisive solutions astutely, to sustain operations. He pointedly stated, “The road can be very rocky. Make sure you have a good product and offer good service. Be prepared to work hard and manage expenses well”. To aspiring business owners, this is a fundamental lesson; the returns from personal sacrifice and financial investment can be notably rewarding if dedication and perseverance remain in abundance. Speaking with marked appreciation of EGFL’s contribution towards AML’s development, Mr. Armstrong advised anyone seeking financial assistance for their business to “give [EGFL] a go” and noted that “because of their developmental nature [he] found them more understanding to [the needs of ] a start-up organisation”.

EGFL is committed to its mission of being a catalyst for the development of the business sector while providing the client with a better experience as we chart a path towards a rejuvenated and sustainable Barbadian economy.