innumerable trials and obstacles safely behind them, the husband-and-wife team
behind the hurricane-protected #aquaponics farming initiative, Fusion Farms, can finally celebrate a well and
hard-earned success. This coming Tuesday, May 21st 2019, Kendell
Lang and Lisa Jander together with the island of Puerto Rico will be
celebrating the ribbon cutting ceremony at their pilot facility in Mayagüez,
and Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares will be attending.
dream long in the making
their first visit to the spectacularly beautiful Caribbean island several years
ago, Kendell and Lisa have dreamed about moving to #PuertoRico and establishing
a sustainable agricultural initiative that would – in some way –contribute to
the island’s recovery. In 2018, they made the move from San Diego, California
and after more than a year of hard toil against the monumental tasks of
fund-raising and interpreting government grants and incentives, and completing bank
applications, they managed to secure the first Fusion Farms facility in Mayagüez,
a municipality in western Puerto Rico. With the help of #PRIDCO, #USDA and the
Department of Agriculture, to name a few, Fusion Farms is well on the way to
pioneering a sustainable indoor agriculture model for the island.
ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, May 21st
2019 at 1:30 PM where community members will be able to see the vision for the
are pleased to announce that Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares is scheduled to
come to the Fusion Farms facility in Mayagüez,” says CEO and co-founder Kendell
Lang. “He will be doing a site visit, tour of the building, presentation, and
ribbon cutting ceremony to officially welcome Fusion Farms to Puerto Rico.” “Fusion
Farms is proud to be at the forefront of what the Department of Economic
Development is incentivizing for innovative agriculture solutions, specifically
our hurricane-protected aquaponic vertical farm.”
in attendance will be the Secretary of the Department of Economic Development
and Commerce, who will be discussing their delivery of $9 million USD to the Programa de Hidroponicos (Program of Hydroponics)
and Pymes Innovadoras (Innovative
Small to Medium Enterprises) in an effort to advance the agriculture sector of
Farms is excited to create jobs and work with the University of Puerto Rico,
Mayagüez, Department of Agriculture. By working together, we can address the
needs of the community and begin to establish food security for the island. The
current incentives offered to all farmers are making it possible for
agriculture to thrive,” says Lisa Jander, co-founder
and Director of Operations of Fusion Farms. “We are incredibly grateful for this opportunity and look forward to
welcoming everyone to our ribbon cutting ceremony!”
attend, please visit the Facebook Event page, click “Number of Spots”, and then “Reserve”
to secure a spot at this ground-breaking ceremony.
About Fusion Farms
“Cultivando buena comida para buenas personas”
“Growing good food for good people”
Fusion Farms is the first indoor aquaponic
farm of its kind on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. The concept seeks to
transform the unused Puerto Rico Industrial
Development Company (PRIDCO) buildings that are scattered across the island
into hurricane-protected, vertical #aquaponic farms. Within this contained and
controlled environment, vegetables, micro-greens, and herbs can be grown and
supplied to the island, greatly reducing its dependence on imported fresh
produce. Furthermore, Fusion Farms will be able to supply a fresh, #sustainable
source of fish protein, since Tilapia are an essential component of
In 1920, Congress passed a law designed to encourage American prosperity after World War I. Unfortunately this act has, since, had the opposite effect and in few other places is this detrimental effect felt more profoundly than the unincorporated American territory and island nation of #PuertoRico.
The Jones Act as it was called – named after its sponsor, Senator Wesley Jones, from Washington State – has allegedly done immeasurable damage to Puerto Rico’s economy. If a figure were to be supplied, it would be in the region of $1.5 billion, according to an article by Caribbean Business.
In this article, we’ll take
a closer look at the #JonesAct, its economic and environmental impact, and
what’s currently been done to undo this outdated legislature.
What is the Jones Act and
why is it Damaging Puerto Rico?
Almost 100 years ago, the
Merchant Marine Act of 1920 was passed by Congress and enacted into law.
Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act is known as the Jones Act and it stated
that all goods transported by water between ports in the United States and its
territories (of which Puerto Rico is one), be carried on American-flagged ships that are American-built, American-owned, and are
substantially crewed by American citizens.
The intention of this act
was to encourage American trade, commerce, prosperity and naval prowess after
World War I, which makes sense in theory. However, #theJonesAct has had several
unintended consequences. Predominantly, the costs of transporting merchandise from the U.S. mainland to Puerto
Rico in American built, flagged, owned, and run vessels are much higher.
Additionally, Jones Act ships aren’t always available and are not always able
to supply the goods/volume of goods Puerto Rico requires.
Overall, the Jones Act has:
Reduced waterborne coastwise trade (because it’s ships
are so expensive)
Harmed the environment (because there is a preference
for cheaper land freight, as well as trade originating from further afield,
from foreign countries),
Measurably harmed the economy of Puerto Rico, not only
because of steeper consumer prices but also because there aren’t always Jones
Act vessels available to ship the goods Puerto Rico needs to import.
In spite of this, this
outdated law remains in effect and continues to limit the ability to ship
products by water throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.
other U.S. states have the option to transport produce by land, Puerto Rico,
being an island, is forced to make use of Jones Act ships, should it wish to
ship produce in from the mainland. According to two
independent investigations, this has cost Puerto Rico $1.5 billion in higher
prices for goods, as well as in its effect on competitiveness and lost jobs.
The report was compiled by Advantage
Business Consulting (ABC), which was hired to
investigate the true cost of transportation from both the mainland United
States and the various international ports with which Puerto Rico frequently
trades. ABC sent out a survey and of the companies contacted, a significant 70
percent responded, which demonstrates the keen interest of importers with this
issue. The results of the survey were surprising,
although not entirely unexpected.
Rico pays 151% more to transport goods from American ports than from foreign
What it found was that transporting containers from the United States costs, on average,
2.5 times or 151 percent more than transporting from foreign ports. For
example: shipping a container from the U.S. East Coast to Puerto Rico
costs $3,063 but shipping the same
container to nearby Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic costs only
$1,504; and to Kingston, Jamaica, $1,607. This is because they’re not using
Jones Act ships. These figures were arrived at after corresponding adjustments for
size of container and distance.
this data, ABC then calculated an impact equivalent to a Jones Act tax of 7.2 percent on food and beverages alone,
which translates into an increase of $367 million in additional costs to the
local economy. In other words, food and beverages on Puerto Rico cost $300 and
$107 more respectively per person, thanks to the Jones Act.
second independent study performed was done by the New York firm, John
Dunham & Associates (JDA). Having worked for
the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Port Authority of
Philadelphia, and the Ports and Commerce Department of the City of New York,
Chief economist John Dunham has extensive experience in the maritime transport
report read: “All the calculations concluded that there was a significant
impact. From this analysis, the firm chose and adapted the sources to make
their own recommendation, concluding water transportation costs to Puerto Rico
are $568.9 million higher, and prices are $1.1 billion higher than they would
be without the Jones Act limitations.”
further impact of this is on jobs for Puerto Ricans.
this is the case, Puerto Rico has 13,250 fewer jobs than it would have were
there a free market for ocean freight,” says John Dunham. “Those jobs would pay
residents $337.3 million in wages and would result from nearly $1.5 billion in
increased economic activity.”
said that overall tax revenue would be $106.4 million more were the island to
be exempt from the Jones Act’s provisions.
The Jones Act doesn’t only
deliver a blow to business’, consumers’, and the economy’s pockets… owing to
this legislation, Puerto Rican businesses have limited viable shipping options,
which has compelled them to purchase more from foreign countries. In fact, many Puerto Rico companies opt to
import goods from Canada rather than from the United States in order to avoid
the cost premium from the Jones Act. Additionally,
the island, imports almost no heavy cargo from the U.S. since ships are not
available to carry it. And with goods having to cover longer distances
by other modes of travel, particularly land transport, Puerto Rico’s #carbonfootprint
is unavoidably large.
The road forward
the results of these two economic studies, we have enough data to demand that
we be heard here as well as in the United States Congress,” says president of
the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce, Kenneth Rivera. “The numbers are clear,
the impact is devastating for the economy of our island and even more so being
as vulnerable to natural disasters such a as #HurricaneMaria.”
Salvatella, president of the Puerto Rico Restaurants Association, has also said
that Puerto Rico’s food security is directly tied to its “extreme dependence”
on imports: “We had great difficulties in meeting our clients’ needs, to the
point that one of our partners had to import food by plane at a cost 10 times
higher than what it would have cost by sea due to the lack of service.”
And so, rather than achieving any of the goals set forth in
1920, the Jones Act has severely hampered the development of the merchant
marine and shipbuilding industries in the United States. It’s time for change.
It is Fusion Farm’s mission to bring about change by re-establishing local agriculture (in hurricane-protected facilities) and reducing Puerto Rico’s dependence on food imports.
Puerto Rico’s farmers and
communities desperately need the Farm
Aid Festival; they deserve the #FarmAid
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 email@example.com to make the same request.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
In September 2017, the most devastating storm to have ever made landfall on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico slammed into its coastline. Virtually overnight, the island’s already struggling infrastructure and farmlands were razed to the ground, delivering a blow that countless Puerto Ricans are still, to this day, trying to recover from.
The morning after #HurricaneMaria, a road in the Roseau area is littered with structural debris, damaged vegetation, and downed power poles and lines. Source: Roosevelt Skerrit from Vieille Case, Dominica, Public Domain
It was during a visit to the island before and after Hurricane Maria that California entrepreneurs and partners, Kendell Lang and Lisa Jander, conceived of the idea to build a hurricane-protected #aquaponics farms within a large concrete PRIDCO (the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company) warehouse that had been left vacant.
Hurricane Maria is just one of the reasons Puerto Rico is a shadow of what it could be…but what remains clear is that this beautiful, tropical paradise has incredible potential for growth, self-sufficiency, and #foodsovereignty.
Kendell and Lisa have made the move to Puerto Rico, assembled the business plan, built a website, launched a Start Engine fundraising campaign to help build the first of many hurricane-protected farms, and have obtained approval to occupy a vacant PRIDCO warehouse.
Inside PRIDCO’s vacant warehouse in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. This image was taken by Kendell Lang and Lisa Jander during a visit to secure the site for their first Fusion Farms facility.
In the short-term, funding permitting, the goal is to build the first hurricane-protected Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) facility for Fusion Farms that will make use of aquaponics and vertical farming techniques to produce a reliable supply of fresh, non-GMO, 100% pesticide-free fruits and vegetables. Since the farm will maintain a network of freshwater tilapia ponds, the offering will also extend to the harvesting (but not processing) of fresh fish.
In addition to fresh produce, Fusion Farms aims to become a thriving center for the employment, education, and training of the local population. Realizing the incredible experience and value Puerto Rican farmers have to offer, Lisa and Kendell have made it a core part of their plan to fully utilize this resource by employing local farmers in the aquaponics facility, while also training inexperienced hands.
A 3D rendering of the intended transformation of one of PRIDCO’s vacant warehouses on Puerto Rico. Source: www.FusionFarmsPR.com
Medium-term goals for Fusion Farms
The dream for Fusion Farms doesn’t end with the completion and successful running of the first facility. It begins.
“We aim to develop a repeatable, sustainable, and scalable model for a hurricane protected CEA aquaponic farm,” explains Lisa Jander. “One that can be repeated across the island of Puerto Rico.”
Currently, the island, which is perfectly capable of feeding its own population were it properly cultivated and protected, imports around 90% of its fresh food produce. This is expensive and affects food quality. It’s also unsustainable since the food has to travel hundreds, if not thousands of miles to get to Puerto Rican’s plates.
In the medium term, Fusion Farms intends to build a network of indoor aquaponic facilities that will cater to the needs of the island. It also intends to establish a fully fleshed out training program for locals, who can then become employed on the farms, and a model it can export elsewhere to other nations experience similar challenges.
Long-term goals for Fusion Farms
The challenges #PuertoRico face are not unique. Across the globe, there are hundreds of stricken, impoverished nations that not only suffer political problems and ineffective infrastructure but also frequent natural disasters. It is the long-term goal of Fusion Farms to establish a model – movable, repeatable, and scalable – for building and running hurricane-protected, climate-controlled indoor farming facilities that can feed, train, and employ the local population.
For now, the focus is on Puerto Rico, where there is a dire need for food sovereignty. But if Fusion Farms can make a difference here, then there is potential to make a worldwide impact.
You too can become a part of the movement towards a food sovereign future for all by becoming an #impactinvestor in Fusion Farms.