Phyto-Innovation Challenge: Unveiling The Hidden Secrets of Barbados’ Plants

After months of rigorous evaluation, Export Barbados (BIDC) is thrilled to announce the winners of the Phyto-Innovation Challenge: Unearthing the Hidden Secrets of Barbados’ Plants. This challenge, which was part of the “From Discovery to Global Sales” series, aimed to foster innovation in health and wellness products and promote healthy aging or well-aging solutions while addressing non-communicable diseases and elderly care concerns.

The challenge invited applications from December 8, 2022, to February 17, 2023, and received twenty submissions. These innovations spanned various categories such as functional foods, nutraceuticals, and cosmeceuticals. After a meticulous evaluation process, thirteen applicants were invited to pitch their ideas to a distinguished judging panel of experts.

The esteemed judging panel included:

  • Dr. Damian Cohall: Dean, Faculty of Medical Sciences at The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus
  • Ms. Kim Archer: Quality Assurance Analyst at Carlisle Laboratories
  • Mr. Denzil Phillips: Owner & Founder of Denzil Phillips International
  • Ms. Stella Hackett: Manager – Design at Export Barbados (BIDC)

The applicants were assessed on several crucial factors, including problem-solution fit, scientific soundness, readiness for export, fitness for the market, existing capacity, sustainability, and scalability.

On August 29, Export Barbados (BIDC) proudly announced the top five winners of the Phyto-Innovation Challenge:

The first place went to Dr. Sonia Peter from the Biocultural Education and Research Programme, who received $30,000 in technical assistance and $5,000 in cash for her plant blend to support diabetes and hypertension management. Second place was Mr. Steven Whittaker from Pantry of Amazon Caribbean Ltd., who received $20,000 in technical assistance and $3,000 in cash for his probitotic kombucha to aid in gut health. Third place, Ms. Sharon Cooke, received $15,000 in technical assistance and $2,000 in cash and went to Passiflora Ltd. for the establishment of an ethnobotanical garden dedicated to the scientific study of the traditional plants of Barbados and their medicinal uses. Ms. Kellyann Allicott from Apogey Labs and her plant hydrosols and Ms. Kerri-Ann Bovell from EcoMycö with her True Foods line of holistic products rounded out the top 5 finalists, in fourth and fifth places respectively. They each received $10,000 in technical assistance and $1,000 in cash.

Chief Executive Officer of Export Barbados (BIDC) Mark Hill shared with those in attendance that his organisation is currently spearheading work in the area of life sciences.  He added, “This phyto-innovation competition falls straight within that framework around the life sciences and … we expect that efforts that we see coming out of these five persons will further contribute to further growth in that particular space.”

CEO Hill further commended the finalists on a job well done, stating, “We expect that [your innovations] will not just remain in the scientific realm but the commercialisation of your product…of your innovation… can begin to be exported across the world and generate significant levels of revenue for the economy. And therefore that is the heart of this particular competition here.”

Featured speaker, Dr. Damian Cohall answered the question, “Why a phyto-innovation challenge in Barbados? Because we have the skills, we have the talent, we have the resources to be able to use plants in a very innovative way.” Underscoring the importance of an initiative of this nature, he shared, “[The] current practices involving the use of plants have evolved and [are] primarily responsible for the Caribbean being identified as sixth in the top 25 flora biodiversity hotspots globally. So we have a very important goldmine sitting on as it relates to plants.”

CEO Hill presents a token of appreciation to Dr. Cohall.

Export Barbados (BIDC) acknowledges the effort and dedication put forth by all applicants and assures them of continuous support. The Corporation assured all applicants of its commitment to providing mentorship, testing, research support, access to a network of industry experts, and other forms of assistance to help in their journeys to develop and refine their discoveries toward commercialization and develop capacity regardless of their placement in the challenge.

Both CEO Hill and Dr. Cohall considered aloe, [Aloe barbadensis], a viable option for further exploration.  The Challenge Judge proposed that, “The mere fact that its name, or one of its names is a synonym to the name of Barbados…it shows that it is something special about aloes and Barbados and that needs to be explored.”

Congratulations to all the winners and participants of the Phyto-Innovation Challenge! The dedication to innovation and sustainable health solutions will undoubtedly contribute to a brighter and healthier future for Barbados and beyond.

For more information about the Phyto-Innovation Challenge or to explore export opportunities with Barbados, please visit