Spotlight on Puerto Rico Food Sovereignty: “Setas de Puerto Rico”

The saying goes that necessity is the mother of invention. In the case of attorney Rebecca Feliciano, the need to find a new source of income for her family in Puerto Rico’s ailing economic climate in 2011 would become the company that, in just three months from opening, harvested enough fresh mushrooms to cater to the demands of the entire island. The farm’s name is Setas de Puerto Rico, which translates to “mushrooms of Puerto Rico” and is located in the Cuyón neighborhood of Aibonita.

Using a loan of over $330,000 from the Economic Development Bank, Rebecca Feliciano started her mushroom company and farm with the goal of establishing a more lucrative revenue stream. Within the first few months of her operation, she was able to bring on 24 employees and supply a generous harvest of fresh mushrooms to Puerto Rico, making her farm the first of its kind – and, to date, the only of its kind – on the island.

On a visit to Setas de Puerto Rico in 2012, shortly after the company was established, then Governor Luis G. Fortuño had this to say about Rebecca and her pioneering efforts in an unfortunate economic climate:

“These innovative facilities and the extraordinary work of the team at Setas de Puerto Rico Inc. are proof of the ability we all have to reinvent ourselves and seize opportunities to meet the demand for products; in this case, fresh harvested mushrooms. Rebecca took the difficulties she faced and turned them into an opportunity. Her success shows that, with effort, courage, and sacrifice, we can achieve our goals.”

Contributing to Puerto Rico’s food sovereignty

Setas de Puerto Rico is the first Puerto Rican company dedicated to the large-scale production of mushrooms in the country. Of every dollar spent on their products, seventy cents remain in Puerto Rico, contributing enormously to the island’s economic well-being. By developing local production, the farm positively impacts the food supply chain, from distributors and wholesalers to retailers, restaurants, and, most importantly, Puerto Ricans.

Setas de Puerto Rico differentiates itself from its imported counterparts by offering mushrooms that are locally grown, much fresher and more nutritious when they hit shelves, are of a better quality and taste, involve less handling (and therefore stress), and are available at competitive prices. Furthermore, being locally grown, this fresh produce is available in constant and reliable supply on the island, which is important for the businesses (like restaurants and hotels) whose menus feature mushrooms.

Setas de Puerto Rico is an important example of the innovation and pioneering efforts of Puerto Ricans to establish a reliable and sustainable, locally grown food system. For more information on Setas de Puerto Rico, please check out their website at https://setasdepuertorico.com. Alternatively, contact them at +1 (787) 294-6006.

What is the Puerto Rico Food Sovereignty Series about?

This blog series by Fusion Farms focuses on the individuals, couples, families, and friends who are actively contributing to Puerto Rico’s food sovereignty and security by investing their time, money, and passion into local agriculture. From coffee plantations and mushroom farms to home-grown organic vegetables and hydroponically grown herbs, each blog tells the story of the unique contributions, trials, and tribulations of a people who are proudly Puerto Rican and who strive towards a better future for this beautiful island nation.

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 aquaculture.

For more information about Fusion Farms and to become an investor in this innovative start-up, go to www.fusionfarmspr.com or email Info@FusionFarmsPR.com

Fusion Farms PR

Four Food Frontiers Changing the World

The global population is relentlessly expanding and the amount of free space left for agriculture is dwindling. The solution is not to hack into the natural environment – if anything, it’s to withdraw from it and allow it to recover. The solution, rather, is to get smart, think outside the box, and start innovating. The following four food frontiers are perfect examples of just that and they are paving the way forward for a healthy and environmental and animal-friendly future.

Welcome to the Age of Aquaponics

Aquaponics is farming without the acreage. Oh, and also the pesticides, grueling dusk-to-dawn hours, and gargantuan water bill. Combining fish farming (aquaculture) and the indoor, controlled climate agriculture of plants (hydroponics), aquaponics is fast becoming a powerful solution to feeding today’s exploding populations, without putting a strain on the environment.

The fish provide the nutrient-rich water the plants need to grow and the plants filter the water for the fish. This all takes place in a closed, climate controlled environment that’s typically powered by solar energy, which optimises plant success (without the need for pesticides) and therefore yield irrespective of the weather and climate outside.

Additionally, aquaponics uses a fraction of the fertilizer, energy, labour, and water that traditional agriculture uses and has proven an exceptionally successful way to produce nutritious, non-GMO fruits, vegetables, and herbs in any kind of environment, from the heart of a bustling city to the middle of a desert. The ability to set up an aquaponics farm of any size (for a family, a community, or an entire city), anywhere in the world is what has positioned this farming technique at the very frontier of all the food trends

“Aquaponics is a fascinating and sustainable method for producing healthy food with minimal impact and effort,” says Gabriel Blanchet, an MIT student and co-founder of Grove Labs. “We believe aquaponics will play a critical role in sustainably producing food in both developed and developing countries.”

Fusion Farms is pioneering aquaponics agriculture in Puerto Rico.

Salads in Space

Mizuna lettuce growing aboard the International Space Station. Source: nasa.gov.


Lasagne in a tube and vacuum-packed chicken à la king is so last century. Nowadays, astronauts in space can turn to living gardens for fresh, healthy greens. In 2002, students at Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Laboratory built the Lada greenhouse and used the Russian Progress spacecraft to courier it to the International Space Station (ISS).

This space-friendly greenhouse provides the perfect growing environment for seeds placed inside wick-like structures embedded in a clay material. The clay conveys water to the roots, LED lights mimic sunshine, and fans and air conditioners create desirable temperatures and ventilation.

For now, the Lada greenhouse provides astronauts with freshly grown vegetables and leaves and, according to Gail Bingham, a senior scientist at the Space Dynamics Laboratory and lead engineer for Lada, a psychological break from the barrenness of space. “It’s really hard on the psyches of the astronauts to live in a bare container—the only living thing they encounter is the fungus in their armpits.” Charming.

The system, however, can be used anywhere and given its success in space, might offer a future food solution to colonisation on the moon or another planet!

The sky’s the limit for vertical farming

Lettuce grown in an indoor vertical farming system. Source: By Valcenteu – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.

In cities where there is precious little square footage available for agriculture, vertical farming is stepping in to offer an efficient and productive system for large volumes of fresh greens. This technique involves stacking growing trays or racks one above the other inside a closed, climate-controlled greenhouse. So, instead of producing a single “storey’s” harvest, as is the case with traditional agriculture, vertical farming produces multiple storeys of harvests.

The biggest indoor vertical farm in the world is located in Newark, New Jersey, and is set to produce around two million pounds of vegetables and herbs each year using a combination of LED lights and soil-less growing techniques.

Fusion Farms will combine aquaponics and vertical farming techniques to create an optimal and exponentially more productive agricultural system than any other on the island of Puerto Rico.

Animal-friendly meat

With plant-based and vegan diets becoming “all the rage”, scientists and engineers have been hard at work trying to develop a product that looks and tastes like meat but is 100% animal-free. No, we’re not talking about meat substitutes created from tofu, soy, or beans but rather a kind of protein substance created from plant materials that replicates the satisfying experience of eating meat, without sending a single animal to the slaughterhouse.

Many products have tried and failed to satiate the meat-lovers’ appetite but one of the more successful of these is called Beyond Meat, which mimics the fibrous structure of animal tissue by running a blend of plant proteins and water through an industrial extruder. The aim of these endeavours is to reduce society’s reliance on meat products and the environmental and ethical issues that come hand-in-hand with the industry.

About Fusion Farms

Fusion Farms proudly operates at the food frontier by combining elements of hydroponics, aquaculture, vertical farming, and renewable energy in a fully contained and controlled environment to grow fresh, healthy, 100% pesticide-free, and non-GMO vegetables, herbs, and fruits. Extensive scientific research on looped aquaponic ecosystems has paved the way for repeatable, scalable food production, which represents an innovative advance in the way food supplies will be grown in the future.

For more information about Fusion Farms and to become an investor in this opportunity, go to www.fusionfarmspr.com or email Info@FusionFarmsPR.com.

You Are (and Feel) What You Eat!

Nutritional Psychiatry is Treating Mental Health Problems with the Right Diet

Dr. Drew Ramsey, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and the author of several books that address food and mental health, is a big fan of oysters. Not because he likes to order them off the menu but rather because they are rich in vitamin B12, which studies suggest may help to reduce brain shrinkage. Oysters are also packed with long chain omega-3 fatty acids, deficiencies of which have been linked to higher risk for suicide and depression.

Given the evident connections between nutrition, the brain, and mental health, Dr. Ramsey has largely pioneered an emerging field of medicine that prescribes food – and the nutrients that we are missing in our diet – to counteract depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. The field is termed nutritional psychiatry and its practitioners, like Dr. Ramsey, together with chef and food coach Samantha Elkrief, counsel patients on how better eating can ease their particular mental health challenges.

You are, after, what you eat.

Bad diet = impaired mental health

It makes sense that any deficiency in the nutrients, vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fats that are essential to brain health would affect its function. This influence extends much further than simple performance (the ability to think quickly and efficiently, for example). It also influences our mental health. It therefore stands to reason that consuming the nutrition our brain needs to function optimally would also improve mental health. Determining the precise pathway this happens for each patient is, of course, the challenge that Dr. Ramsey has taken on.

According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is a dominant driver of disability for Americans aged 15 to 44. And it’s Dr. Ramsey’s argument that a poor diet is a major factor contributing to this epidemic. The irony, he says, is that “most Americans are overfed in calories yet starved of the vital array of micronutrients that our brains need, many of which are found in common plant foods.”

The results of a 2017 survey published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that only 10% of adults meet the minimal daily federal recommendations for fruit and vegetables: at least one-and-a-half to two cups of fruit and two to three cups of vegetables per day. Read full report here.

The usual approach to treating mental health issues is a combination of pharmacological, using prescription drugs like antidepressants, and talk therapy. The argument being made by Dr. Ramsey and other proponents of nutritional psychiatry is that the right food choices – mostly, plant-based – are an indispensible component of the treatment approach. Americans change the way they eat all the time: to slim down, lower their cholesterol, and control blood sugar levels, etc. Yet, few pay attention to diet when it comes to the organ that requires the most energy in the body: the brain.

What does a mental health friendly diet look like?

Our understanding of the impact of diet on mental functioning is in its infancy but studies are being conducted around the world on this subject and the outcomes are indicating that plant-based diets are the way to go:

A 2016 American Journal of Public Health study examined more than 12,000 Australians and found that those who increased the amount of fruits and vegetables they ate reported being happier and more satisfied with their life.

Another study of 422 young adults from New Zealand and the United States showed higher levels of mental health and well being for those who ate more fresh fruits and vegetables. Interestingly, the same observations did not extend to those who consumed canned fruits and vegetables.

 “We think this is due to the higher nutrient content of raw fruits and vegetables, particularly B vitamins and vitamin C, which are vulnerable to heat degradation,” said Tamlin Conner, a study author and senior lecturer at the University of Otago in New Zealand.

In 2017, Felice Jacka, Professor of Nutritional and Epidemiological Psychiatry at Deakin University, performed one of the first randomized controlled trials to test whether diet could be used to help treat depression. In the study, the participants who were coached to follow a Mediterranean diet (rich in whole grains, legumes, seafood, and nutrient-dense leafy vegetables) for three months reported mood improvements and lower levels of anxiety. Those who received more traditional therapy showed no improvements.

“Our imaging studies show that the brains of people who follow a Mediterranean-style diet typically look younger, have larger volumes [of healthy gut bacteria], and are more metabolically active than people who eat a more typical Western diet,” said Dr. Lisa Mosconi, director of the Women’s Brain Initiative at the Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York. Such brain benefits may be protective against the onset of dementia, she said.

Changes you can make today

According to Mosconi, “there is no one diet that fits all” but there are changes you can make today that will have a definite impact on whole body (and mental) health:

  • Eliminate processed foods from your diet. Processed foods are those that have had a series of mechanical or chemical operations performed on it to change or preserve it, for example: frozen pizza, microwaveable dinners, jarred sauces and gravies, deli meats, canned fruits, etc.
  • Minimize meat and dairy. Diets high in animal products have been linked to an increased risk in heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, and cancer.
  • Eat more whole foods. These are plant foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible, before being consumed. They include whole grains, tubers, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Fresh, fatty fish is also considered a whole food.

It’s important to remember that not everyone is the same and while a particular diet may help improve the mental health of one patient, another might require a slightly different approach. It’s also important to understand that dietary changes and improvements are considered an adjunctive (add-on) to the traditional mental health treatment approaches.

“It’s about slowing down and becoming more mindful, noticing your body and noticing how you feel when you eat certain foods,” says Samantha Elkrief, the food coach who assists Dr. Ramsey.

Fusion Farms is passionate about, and supports the move towards healthy, whole food diets. For more information about Fusion Farms and to become an investor in this opportunity, go to www.fusionfarmspr.com or email Info@FusionFarmsPR.com