Advanced Farm Technologies Ltd. was founded in 1991 in the small, rural village of Martha Brae in Trelawny, Jamaica, when the management of its Indiana-based parent company recognized the growing demand in the North American market for fresh and exotic fruits. So, the company purchased a farm, situated in a valley near Martha Brae, and within 40 minutes of Montego Bay’s international airport.
From its humble beginnings on just 25 acres, today, the company employs over 400 full-time team members who plant and nurture Martha’s Best Papayas, sometimes known as “strawberry papaya,” on 170 acres from the best seed nature provides and without using any genetically modified material. Now, one of the largest producers in Jamaica, the company is a major exporter of papaya to countries such as the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
Advanced Farm Technologies employs environmentally friendly pest control, incorporating the use of biocides such as neem oil and hot pepper water. These solutions reduce the company’s reliance on inorganic pesticides and minimize the possibility of increased chemical tolerance by target pests. It also optimizes its ability to preserve the delicate balance between consistent commercial production and environmental sustainability.
The company’s commitment to excellence continues through the harvesting process which is carried out on custom-made reaping platforms, where each fruit is individually hand-picked and placed in trays, ready for a gentle ride to the packing house. There, the fruit is packed in Martha’s Best distinctive boxes, coded for traceability, palletized by size and maturity, and made ready for air shipment to its distributors in the U.S., all within 24 hours of being picked.
Also referred to as pawpaw, the mature papaya fruit is approximately 15cm long, and weighs about 300 to 350 grams. The skin is yellow when ripe and green when immature. The soft fruit can be easily cut to reveal a red pulp protecting a tight cluster of small, black oval seeds. Papaya is a world super food. It contains a rich source of nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and enzymes that hold powerful health benefits for the human body – from improving skin, helping digestion problems, treating intestinal parasites, protecting the eyes and heart, and even decreasing the risk of cancer.
Papaya contains two special compounds called lutein and zeaxanthin. These phytonutrients are concentrated in the macular region of the eyes where they provide protection against UV-damaging light. Research suggests that a good intake of these phytonutrients can significantly reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness. High levels of lutein and zeaxanthin help protect against developing diseases like cataracts and glaucoma. In addition, they help to improve visual activity and color perception.
Papaya also has a rich source of proteolytic enzymes, such as papain, chymopapain, caricain, and glycylendopeptidase that all greatly aid in the digestive process. These proteolytic enzymes found in papaya improve digestion by breaking down proteins into individual amino acids. Undigested proteins can lead to gastrointestinal problems and an overgrowth of flatulence which can cause bacteria in the colon.
Along with their powerful antioxidants like lycopene and beta-carotene, papaya contains high levels of Vitamins C and A that, together, help reduce the oxidation of cholesterol in the arteries. Cholesterol oxidation leads to plaque blocked arteries that can result in heart attacks. The fiber found in papaya can also lower undesirable LDL levels in the blood by inhibiting its absorption during digestion.
Increasing intake of powerful antioxidants and vitamins found in papaya can improve blood flow and reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Papaya is also a great source of folate, which helps control homocysteine levels in the bloodstream. High levels of homocysteine in the blood damage blood vessels and can cause cardiovascular disease, heart disease, and stroke. Finally, the proteolytic enzymes in papaya can digest the fibrin protein layer of cancer cells that usually surrounds and protects them. This can leave the cancerous cells more susceptible to the body’s immune response and hinder growth, inhibiting the cancer from spreading.
Deliciously sweet with musky undertones and a soft, butter-like consistency, it is no wonder the papaya was reputably called the “fruit of the angels” by Christopher Columbus. Once considered quite exotic, they can now be found in markets throughout the year. And, thanks to Advanced Farm Technologies Jamaica Ltd., they are available in abundance throughout the United States.
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Advanced Farm Technologies Ltd.
WHAT: A major supplier of Jamaican papaya
WHERE: Martha Brae, Trelawny, Jamaica