Puerto Rico has been in the headlines a lot lately and not for the right reasons. For years, the country has been sliding deeper and deeper into debt, which was estimated at $73 billion in October 2017. Then, on 16th September 2017, a high-end category 4 storm, Hurricane Maria, slammed into the island, leaving its inhabitants without homes, electricity, and water.
The intense financial and humanitarian pressures closing in on the tiny Caribbean nation forced it in May of this year to file for “the biggest U.S. municipal bankruptcy in history,” according to an article by CNN Money. In other words, Puerto Rico is in the grips of a financial and humanitarian crisis that has seen little to no improvement over the past year, and that continues to face an enormously uncertainty future.
Puerto Rico’s Problems Defined
What exactly does “financial and humanitarian crisis” mean?
- 48% of the population lives below the federally defined poverty line.
- 27% of Puerto Ricans are on some form of government subsidy.
- There is an on-going energy crisis: one power company holds a complete monopoly over the island and its management ranks are riddled with corruption.
- There is an on-going economic crisis: the labor participation rate is a paltry 39%, no new jobs are being generated, and, sick of the turmoil and lack of service, educated and skilled inhabitants are leaving the island in their droves.
- The Puerto Rico Industrial Development Corporation (PRIDCO) has tens of millions of square feet of empty buildings that have been abandoned in the ongoing economic downturn.
In addition to this, the island of Puerto Rico faces severe food shortages:
- Hurricane Maria obliterated 80% of its farms, which was actually just one of two devastating hurricanes to have hit the island in recent years and from which there has been little recovery.
- Local farming has all but disappeared because of the domination of large colonial-era plantations, which have focused agriculture on the island on mono-crop farming.
Consequently, 90% or more of the food consumed on Puerto Rico has to be shipped in. This not only makes it more expensive, but also requires the food to travel a minimum of 1,500 miles for weeks at a time, impacting quality, nutrition, and freshness. This is a travesty for a tropical island that could and should be producing its own fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish.
This is the problem. Now, let’s take a look at the solution….
Solving Puerto Rico’s Financial and Humanitarian Crisis
Puerto Rico, the Island of Enchantment, continues to be a spectacularly beautiful island that is rich in natural beauty and natural resources. Our objective is to work with the afore-mentioned Puerto Rico Industrial Development Corporation (PRIDCO), the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, and several other strategic partners to prove that the solution to the island’s crisis is to, once again, take its primary industries of agriculture and fishing into our own hands. The sustainable indoor growing of fruits, vegetables, and fish is an economically viable solution to accomplish that goal.
The first step would be to create aquaponic farms inside those vacant buildings we mentioned and bring people and communities together in a shared educational space. By repurposing unused real estate – and ensuring that these spaces are hurricane proof – we can create a viable example of urban agriculture that can withstand the abuse of severe storms, and assume a “nothing is wasted” approach.
An alternative source of fresh, locally-grown food
These aquaponic farms would supply an alternative food source that is incredibly fresh, rich in nutrients, sustainable, and affordable. In addition to fresh fruits and vegetables, aquaponics raises farmed fish that can provide people with a live, natural protein source.
- We would be utilizing all-natural techniques to balance the ecosystem without pesticides or chemicals.
- We would be reconnecting Puerto Ricans with agriculture, industry, and a powerful sense of purpose.
- We would be creating jobs, sustainable and affordable food, and a culture of self-reliance.
- And all with a smaller carbon footprint.
This is the solution that Fusion Farms (a DBA of FPMG, Inc.) wishes to propose, a Controlled Environment Aquaponics or CEA facility for sustainable, renewable, energy efficient indoor growing of organic food in hurricane-proof buildings.
Together, we can help Puerto Rico grow its economy and restore the pride of this beautiful island to its people.