Puerto Rico is OPEN for Green Business!

Lisa and I were able to attend the “Puerto Rico is Open For Green Business” Summit at the San Juan Convention Center today, so it was exciting to hear all the opportunities Puerto Rico has to turn around the devastation from Hurricane Maria to an opportunity to set a new course for the Island.

Here are some pictures of our time at the event:

This is me with HON. RICARDO ROSSELLÓ NEVARES the Governor of Puerto Rico:

This is me with ON. TANIA VÁZQUEZ RIVERA the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources

This is me with RODRICK MILLER the Chief Executive Officer of Invest Puerto Rico.

This is Lisa with Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares.

Farm Aid – We Need Your Help!

Puerto Rico’s farmers and communities desperately need the Farm Aid Festival; they deserve the #FarmAid Festival.

Puerto Rico has barely recovered from the devastation of Hurricane Maria and is forced to import 85% of its fresh food, which simply isn’t fresh or nutritious by the time it arrives. Puerto Rico needs awareness, investment, and aid; it needs Farm Aid to come to the island and you can help simply by picking up the phone, dialing 1-800-FARM-AID (1-800-327-6243) and asking founders Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and John Mellencamp to bring their Festival to Puerto Rico. You can also reach them at 617-354-2922 from 9am to 5pm EST, fill out the Online Request for Assistance Form, and/or send an email to farmhelp@farmaid.org to make the same request.

Help us get the word out! Like and Share! Check out Farm Aid’s Facebook Page and Instagram Account.

Help us bring Farm Aid to Puerto Rico!

Farm Aid

Fusion Farms is standing with Puerto Rican Family Farmers and working to bring the Farm Aid Festival 2019 to Puerto Rico. Join us in reaching out to the Farm Aid Organization and let’s let them know how much of an IMPACT they could bring to Puerto Rican Family Farmers. Puerto Rico deserves to be supported by Farm Aid and after 30 years of Festivals all over the country, it’s time that Puerto Rico was given the boost it so deserves!!!

Please call 1-800-FARM-AID (1-800-327-6243) to speak with a Farm Aid staff member and ask them to schedule the next Farm Aid Festival in Puerto Rico.

You can reach Farm Aid at 617-354-2922 from 9 am to 5 pm eastern.

Please Fill out the Online Request for Assistance Form to ask that the next Farm Aid Festival be scheduled in Puerto Rico or email your request to farmhelp@farmaid.org

When hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma devastated the Gulf Coast states in 2015, Farm Aid mobilized to respond to the emergency needs of family farmers. Within days of Katrina’s impact, Farm Aid sent emergency grants and truckloads of donated food to farm families in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi and sponsored five trainings to enable farmers to access federal disaster programs. When hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, we did not get a Farm Aid Festival, but now it’s time!

To be put on the list for ticket reservations, please send email to CEO@FusionFarmsPR.com and you’ll be the first to get notified of tickets if, as and when they become available.

Some call us crazy

“San Diego to Puerto Rico? Why? Are you nuts? Are you going to give up your citizenship? What about medical insurance, international calls, social security and crime? Do they have power yet? Does anyone there speak English? Can you drink the water?”

Yep, we got them all.

Yet, here we are dispelling myths daily and embracing the challenges.

We chose Puerto Rico. We were not forced to move here, running from the law or evading (but definitely avoiding) taxes. We are still US citizens and our friends and family from the States don’t need a passport to come visit us.

There are 2 reasons we moved here: personal and professional.

Let’s start with personal.

When we decided to relocate to Puerto Rico from San Diego to start Fusion Farms, our announcement was met with quite a few raised eyebrows. After all, San Diego is one of the greatest cities on earth, right?

Don’t get me wrong! We loved San Diego and enjoyed most of what it had to offer until the island of Puerto Rico pulled at our heartstrings compelling us to take the leap.

I believe pictures speak a thousand words so below is the view we wake up to every morning. And let me mention that beachfront real estate is a fraction of the price it would cost in San Diego.

Our “office” view

Most of what we need is within 3 miles. There is no stoplight in our town and yet Home Depot and Walmart are only 30 minutes away.  We have plenty of good restaurants and snorkeling is perfect without a wetsuit. We did not choose to live in a gated community in Dorado or San Juan. We chose the west side of the island where sunsets and surfing are the norm.

Yesterday, we went down the 115 affectionately called, “Mango Alley,” to collect some Ataulfo mangos (Champagne mangos) that ripened and fell to the ground like manna for the community to enjoy. Locals and tourists with their grocery bags line the road looking for the best specimens; it reminded me of Easter egg hunts and the excitement when you find the perfect one that someone else overlooked.

Ataulfo mangos (Champagne mangos)

We have been residents for only 5 months and yet we feel a deep connection to the culture and the way of life. We have been embraced here in a way that is not common anywhere esle that we have experienced in the States. Puerto Ricans are warm, friendly, inviting, and patient – especially with our pathetic attempt at Spanish.

Island life provides a unique juxtaposition of being geographically disconnected from the States and yet still being a US citizen. Currently, the United States has sixteen territories, five of which are permanently inhabited: Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. They are classified as unincorporated territories so no passport is needed to travel from the States.

On March 2, 1917, the Jones–Shafroth Act was signed, collectively making Puerto Ricans United States citizens without rescinding their Puerto Rican citizenship.

So, how does that work with taxes, voting and all the other rights and responsibilities of US citizens?

Let’s be clear. We are not CPA’s, lawyers or politicians.  We are Urban Farmers here to help the island obtain food sovereignty and give Puerto Ricans an advantage. In our research on Puerto Rico, we have learned of a great many “incentives” that helped to make our contribution and relocation more feasible. We are not hoping to educate people on all the tax advantages and if you are interested in why we pay ZERO US Federal Income tax, you can read about how that works through ACT 22. What I will say is that when we did the math comparing taxes in Puerto Rico vs. California, the results were astounding…and extremely motivating.

Aftermath of Hurricane Maria – September 2017

Puerto Rico has its share of challenges.

On September 19, 2017, Hurricane Maria obliterated the island. It was the worst hurricane in almost a century. Though the facts around the impact are not always consistent, the devastation was clear and in many parts of the island, recovery is still ongoing.

But, the island was in trouble long before Maria; the utilities, infrastructure, government and economy were already circling the train. The two facts that really grabbed our attention most were these:

  1. Thousands of people have left the island in search of jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the unemployment rate hovers around 8.5% and is projected to trend around 11.20% in 2020.
  2. Over 90% of the food on the island is imported and the quality is subpar and lack nutrition due to the food miles.

“We didn’t move to Puerto Rico to take advantage of the island; we moved to Puerto Rico to help give the island an advantage.”

These were the biggest factors driving our decision to move here – create jobs and grow healthy, fresh, all natural produce in a #HurricaneProtected #Aquaponics #VerticalFarm built in a vacant warehouse. Pretty simple concept; super ambitious (and capital intensive) project.

Puerto Rico is working hard to bring businesses to the island by offering plethora of incentives. They are looking for anything that will grow the economy and reduce the unemployment rate:

Along with Act 22 for residency and personal reasons, there are a number of other reasons for people to invest in Puerto Rico:

For us, it was simple: Good food for good people.

Can we pull this off? Not without the help of investors and donations. To date, we have:

  • The team with all the experience essential for success
  • The interns from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez ready to put their knowledge to work
  • Multiple incentives from the Government, PRIDCO and the USDA
  • A 11,500 square foot building on an acre and a half.
  • Been awarded a $250K solar grant
  • Raised $40,000!

We are grateful for all the support we have received and continue to experience. We have pushed through the challenges that island life brings working many 12 hour days to get this project off the ground and growing…literally.

We have had many victories along the way and the setbacks have not dampened our enthusiasm or resolve.

There is no plan “B.”

Fusion Farms is not just a dream. It is a reality and one we are proud to share. If you want to be a part of our journey, please continue to follow us, share our story with others and visit our Online Public Offering Campaign page to read about the investment opportunity.

Thank you again for your interest in seeing Fusion Farms succeed. We have a long way to go and we have our eye on the goal. On behalf of Puerto Rico, muchas gracias!

Puerto Rico – Produce Safety Alliance

For the past 2 days, we have attended a certification program on Food Safety. The information is vital to the health of a farm as well as the consumers who benefit from what the farm produces.

Much of the emphasis is on traditional farming and all of the potential contamination events that can happen in the field and post harvest in spite of best efforts. The soil, the water to irrigate the vegetation and even the process to wash the produce can provide a perfect environment for pathogens to take hold. With the expanse of so many traditional farms along with the rate at which bacteria, viruses and pests can multiply, it is an ongoing battle that keeps farmers working around the clock.

The beauty of indoor vertical farming is that you can control the environment in a way that minimizes the risk and produces consistency and predictability in an otherwise random industry. The water can be tested, filtered, naturally enhanced with nutrients, and even cooled to ensure success; something that would be impossible on a 100-acre farm. In hydroponics and aquaponics, the roots are not grown in soil but in water where the nutrients flow evenly reaching every part of the root structure evenly on each and every plant.

Growing in soil is another matter. Vegetation planted in the soil is only as good as what the roots come in contact with. If there is nutrient depletion, mold spores or an underground pest, it will be extremely difficult to identify and prevent damage or crop loss.

Cultivation Agriculture Plantation Lettuce

Outbreaks of E. coli, Salmonella and other pathogens have increased as risk factors in traditional farming and the need for food safety becoming more critical. Unfortunately, some of the efforts to eliminate the risks have caused more than their fair share of consequences, thanks to GMO’s and pesticides (which is a post for another time.)

That is precisely why hydroponics and aquaponics are becoming a focal point for the future of agriculture. Consumers are more educated and they are paying more attention to the “condition” their food is in when it hits their dinner plates.

People are starting to care where their food is coming from and the influence under which it is grown. Consumers are starting to embrace the concept that local food is better for you – whether traditionally grown or hydroponically. What is important to realize, however, is what the food was exposed to (locally or not) from seed to harvest and beyond.

Food safety is a big responsibility for all farmers. But to what end will farmers go to make sure their produce is safe? Best practices are not always the cheapest; indoor vertical farming is costly up front but the results and long-term benefits are far more consistent and nutritious than what can be achieved outdoors, in most cases. Outdoor organic farmers face far more stringent regulations and practices, not to mention the cost involved. It is not an easy business.

Investing in hydroponics and aquaponics is a progressive bet that Controlled Environment Agriculture will change the way we grow, distribute and eat meals that come from sustainable, healthy, chemical-free, non-GMO produce with a low carbon footprint. 

Now THAT’s a happy meal!