Service solutions company Magic Mist is expanding its business portfolio as it now looks to venture into agriculture.
Wayne Herbert, director/group executive vice-president also responsible for the company’s day-to-day operations told the Business Guardian a three-acre parcel of land was already bought at Aranguez South, a location known as one of the country’s popular food baskets.
The project is expected to begin by the second quarter of this year.
The land was purchased in 2017 but due to COVID-19 and its many implications plans were placed on the back burner.
“At that time, we had to ensure Magic Mist remained afloat. While COVID was good for the company in terms of our disinfecting and sanitising services, we also recognised that coming out of the pandemic that we, as a country, are heavily dependent on outside influences, food-wise.
“So, we are looking at the next area of opportunity to go into which is agriculture. We think now is a good time to do so. It is good not only for national development but also for organisational development,” Herbert explained.
As the company gears up to put its plan into action it has employed the expertise of agricultural economist Dr Omardath Maharaj not only for guidance but to ensure the land is efficiently maximised.
“The space is small but if properly utilised, the yield could be tremendous,” Herbert noted.
Part of the objective is to invest in short-term crops but Magic Mist is hoping there is produce year-round.
“We are considering a number of things including seasonal crops but more so, we want to have crops that can endure both in the dry and wet seasons.
“Normally, farmers in that area (Aranguez) plant in the dry season and when the rainy season comes around, they tend to leave the area and then come back into the dry season. We want to capitalise on both seasons,” Herbert reiterated.
But it’s more than just tilling the land for Magic Mist.
Aquaculture (also known as fish or shellfish farming) as well as employing modern-day processes into agriculture will be part of the venture.
“We want to look at farming from a perspective of using more technology than traditional uses,” Herbert added.
He said not only will this boost the sector but will generate jobs for the community as CSR also is a big part of the company’s motto.
“Our history is we usually hire people from the area. We have contracts throughout Trinidad and similarly, we would do the same with this venture,” Herbert added.
Subsidising the cost of meals
Recognising that the increasing cost of both grocery items and fresh produce can be burdensome on the pockets of their employees Magic Mist recently introduced a subsidised in-house meal plan.
Growing its own food could also provide the company with fresh ingredients as it spends close to $10,000 in food bought in bulk per month; 40 per cent of which goes to meat including chicken and fish.
According to Herbert, two months ago, the company converted its cafeteria into a kitchen and hired a full-time cook, dishing out a variety of breakfast and lunches.
Herbert said the staff pays $250 a month which works out to $11 per day for both breakfast and lunch.
For those preferring breakfast only, this would cost them $80 per month which is around $3.80 per meal.
“That is better than a doubles,” Herbert said adding, “We understand how difficult it is financially because the average cost of basic breakfast and lunch is about $20 and $50 respectively and our staff can now save that money for something else.”
There’s also the convenience of saving time by not having to prepare breakfast at home or leaving the compound to get lunch.
“Our philosophy is trying to take care of our people and I decided if we are going to do this we will do it right and so far, it has worked out pretty well,” Herbert added.
A typical lunch provided by Magic Mist can consist of rice, coo coo, callaloo, a choice of meat and fresh salad.
According to Herbert eating together has also created a more harmonious and productive work environment.
“All staff have lunch at the same time, and this creates camaraderie, boosts productivity and increases motivation,” Herbert said, noting that it has also engendered a greater sense of team spirit and even improved the morale among staff.
Magic Mist has around 500 employees, many of whom work off-site due to different contractual duties throughout the country.
While the meal plan is presently for office-based employees such as administration, Herbert said avenues are being explored to include everyone in the organisation.
“We have to find ways to meet the rest of our service team members because many of them go directly to their respective contracts throughout the country. So, let’s say you work in Port-of-Spain, we can have a discussion with a food outlet in that area.
“For instance, we could subsidise the value of a meal which should not exceed a certain figure. We can provide a system where every meal they purchase, we will pay half of it. We have to come up with an innovative way to do this because of the different locations of our people,” Herbert said.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that Magic Mist has always been a people-centred organisation. In 2022 it won the Arthur C Barraclough Company Community Service Award which recognises volunteer efforts and generous acts for charities.
In April, Magic Mist will celebrate 45 years in the industry.
Magic Mist Services Ltd began its journey in 1978 formerly as Magic Mist Carpet Cleaners.
Over time, this carpet cleaning entity made several progressive transitions.
The organisation grew from a janitorial service provider to a building service contractor to an integrated facilities maintenance service provider and fast-forward to today; it has embarked on a journey to becoming an industry leader in providing total facilities management solutions.