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

Global Aquaponics Market To Grow at a CAGR of +11% by 2023 

Aquaponics

The latest market research report forecast by Technavio indicates that the global #aquaponics market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 11% between now and 2023, representing an incremental growth of $411 million. One of the key drivers for this market is the growing inclination towards controlled environment farming in the global community.

Technavio is a leading global technology research and advisory company that focuses on emerging market trends and provides insights to help businesses identify opportunities and develop effective strategies to optimize their market positions. Their report serves as a valuable indicator that #ControlledEnvironmentFarming techniques like aquaponics is the way of the future and, for those with the necessary foresight, a potentially lucrative investment opportunity.

What is Controlled Environment Agriculture?

Controlled environment farming or agriculture (#CEA) is the process of growing plants inside a greenhouse or a grow room, where all atmospheric and environmental variables, such as humidity, temperature, nutrients, pH levels, light, etc. can be controlled. Aquaponics is one such method of CEA that leverages the natural relationship between fish and plants to grow crops all year round, out of soil, and in the nutrient-rich wastewaters produced by the fish. 

How do aquaponic systems work? Learn more.

“As aquaponics does not require soil, the plants can be grown on rooftops, rocky surfaces, and other dry areas,” explains a senior analyst at Technavio for research on agricultural equipment.

What this means is that aquaponics farming can become a successful source of fresh, healthy, sustainable food (both plant and fish protein) in most environments and remote locations on Earth, provided there is a sufficient energy and water to feed the system.

The Way Forward

The benefits of CEA are that growing conditions can be optimized to produce the best possible harvest in any environment, often without the use of pesticides, herbicides, hormones, and other undesirable additives. It also optimizes the use of space – since crops can be grown in vertical rack systems, one on top of the other – and labor, water, energy, nutrients, and cost of operating, while still producing a bountiful harvest.

In essence, controlled environment farming is the way forward for a planet that is fast becoming over-populated and running out of the fertile lands and natural food resources needed. It’s a way we can cater for the increasing food demand without further damaging the environment. In fact, it reduces our current exploitation of land and resources, while also drastically reducing food miles, our carbon footprint, and pollution.

Global aquaponics market: About the Report

The global aquaponics market research report by Technavio provides an in-depth analysis of the prominent factors influencing the market, including drivers, opportunities, trends, and industry-specific challenges. The report provides market segmentation by application (aquaculture and hydroponics), technique (Deep Water Culture (DWC), Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), and media-filled bed), and by region (the Americas; Europe, Middle East, and Africa; and Asia-Pacific).

Acquire the global aquaponics market report here.

Another of the report’s significant findings was that the Americas held the largest share of the global aquaponics market in 2018, accounting for close to 53% share, followed by EMEA and APAC respectively. The region is expected to continue to dominate the market during the forecast period of 2018 to 2023. It also found that the market is highly fragmented with many players occupying the market share.

Fusion Farms Puerto Rico and Aquaponics

Technavio’s latest report on the global aquaponics market is particularly significant to the work start-up organization Fusion Farms is doing in #PuertoRico. Located in the beautiful Mayaguez district of Western Puerto Rico, Fusion Farms is making use of existing PRIDCO facilities to sustainably grow a year-round harvest of fresh, and 100% pesticide-free produce grown from organic seed that is high in local demand. The concrete facilities themselves are hurricane protected, which is essential on a Caribbean island that lost vast tracts of farmland to devastating hurricanes in the past few years and that continues to import upwards of 80% of its fresh produce as a result.

Learn more about the work Fusion Farms is doing.

Through its aquaponics venture, Fusion Farms aims to restore #FoodSovereignty to Puerto Rico and, should the model prove to be successful, will export the concept to similar nations across the globe; nations that are struggling to establish a local, #sustainable, and reliable harvest of fresh produce and fish protein due to environmental, political, and/or social problems.

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

The Jones Act: Is the 100-Year-Old Shipping Law Contributing to the Ruin of Puerto Rico?

Jones Act

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.

Steep price tag for Puerto Ricans

The Jones Act: a Legacy of Economic Ruin for Puerto Rico

Where 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.

One study titled The Impact of the Jones Act on Puerto Rico was the first on the Jones Act following Hurricane Maria and was commissioned by a coalition of Puerto Rican government, hospitality, legal, and other institutions, including the Chamber of Marketing, Industry and Food Distribution (MIDA in Spanish acronym), the Puerto Rico Restaurants Association, the United Retailers Association, and the Puerto Rico Bar Association.

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.

Puerto Rico pays 151% more to transport goods from American ports than from foreign ports

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.

Using 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.

Studies peg cost of Jones Act on Puerto Rico at $1.5 billion

Further Jones Act limitations

The 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 sector.

Their 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.”

A further impact of this is on jobs for Puerto Ricans.

“If 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.”

He also said that overall tax revenue would be $106.4 million more were the island to be exempt from the Jones Act’s provisions.

Environmental considerations

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

“With 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.”

José 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.

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

Bringing Fresh Food, #Sustainability , Jobs, and a Future to Puerto Rican’s Tables

Fusion Farms

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.

Thus, Fusion Farms was born.

Short-term goals for Fusion Farms

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.

Become an investor!


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