They say the first step on any journey
is the biggest. And while Fusion Farms has been motoring on up that proverbial
mountainside for over a year now, laying the extensive business, financial,
legal, and administrative foundations for our vertical aquaponics farm in #Mayaguez,
Puerto Rico, this past week has seen what has felt like the first step on a new
chapter of our story.
On June 30th, Kendell Lang
and Lisa Jander, the husband-and-wife team behind Fusion Farms, were officially
handed the keys to our pilot facility, a vast concrete building, which we have
leased from #PRIDCO – the Puerto Rican Development Company. There are many of
these buildings located across the island and have been standing strong, even
through severe weather events like Hurricane Maria, since they were built in
the 1960’s. It’s inside this very facility that Fusion Farms will be
establishing Puerto Rico’s first indoor vertical #aquaponics farm!
The next development that happened this
week – and this may seem like a small step but it is an extremely significant
one – is that we received our very first delivery of the equipment that will be
necessary to start and run our #farm.
The delivery consisted of two
400-gallon water storage tanks for the collection of fresh rainwater, a dual
propane gas generator with gas tanks, a specialised refrigerator for our seed
library, and a power pressure washer for cleaning. Oh, and a tractor lawn mower
to keep the yard’s thick grass in check! *Stay tuned for pictures of Lisa
riding it with a glass of wine in her hand!
These two steps – taking possession of
our #hurricane protected facility, the near future home of our vertical
aquaponics farms and receiving our first delivery of equipment – constitute the
first physical manifestations of the hard work Kendell and Lisa have tirelessly
channelled into this dream of theirs. And that dream is to establish a
hurricane protected farm on #PuertoRico that can give back to the island by
providing a reliable, locally grown source of fresh and healthy leafy greens,
herbs, vegetables, and fish.
Having recently been awarded the
maximum #solar energy grant amount from PRIDCO for the purpose of installing
solar panels, Kendell and Lisa aim to go as “green” as possible, using mostly #renewable
energy sources and rainwater to drive their farm. The assistance of a propane
power generator will ensure that, regardless of the weather or Puerto Rico’s
unstable power grid, Fusion Farms can continue to grow fresh produce.
“Doing well by doing good is our
motto,” says Kendell Lang, CEO and co-founder of Fusion Farms. “We believe that
successful businesses fulfil an important purpose and, in our case, that
purpose is to help uplift Puerto Rico’s struggling economy and combat its
reliance on imported food from the mainland. By establishing a reliable, local
source of fresh greens and fish protein that can withstand the Caribbean’s
notoriously tempestuous weather, we can play a part in getting Puerto Rico to
its feet a little faster.”
The current Fusion Farms facility,
which is based in Mayaguez, will be the first of many if Kendell and Lisa’s
pilot program is a success. Together, the couple aim to flesh out a repeatable,
scalable model for hurricane protected #vertical aquaponics farms that can be
applied to other PRIDCO buildings on Puerto Rico, on other islands in the
Caribbean, or anywhere in the world really.
“If this follows the trajectory we’re
fighting for, it’s possible that we’ll be able to establish these farms in
remote areas across the world that struggle enormously to gain access to fresh,
healthy greens and protein,” says Lisa, co-founder and
Director of Operations of Fusion Farms.
For now, we celebrate many firsts: our first
ever delivery of equipment and the first physical step towards establishing
Puerto Rico’s first ever indoor, hurricane protected, and sustainable vertical
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
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.”
Farms is pioneering aquaponics agriculture
in Puerto Rico.
Salads in Space
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
With 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 at a Press Conference 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.
Press Conference and Incentive Awards
The Press Conference and Incentive Awards are 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 indoor farm.
“We 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 award the solar energy grant 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
“Fusion 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 new facility!”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
“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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Rico has its share of challenges.
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.
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:
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.
Over 90% of the food on the island is imported and the quality is subpar and lack nutrition due to the food miles.
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:
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
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.
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!
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.
Fish poop is powering a new agricultural model that can feed Puerto Rico’s hurricane-stricken population while using less water and less land.
Outside, the rain
hammers against the facility roof and the wind howls with intense voracity,
tearing up power lines and ripping the roofs off unprotected homes. Within the
reinforced concrete walls of the PRIDCO building, however, thousands upon
thousands of heads of lettuce proliferate and thrive, wholly unaware of the
carnage going on outside. Here, fed by nutrient and nitrate-rich water and
renewably sourced power, agriculture can continue irrespective of the weather.
The island’s people may lose power in their homes; they may even lose the roofs
on their houses…but they will have food.
This is the model being
put forward by Fusion Farms,
an organization striving to bring hurricane protected Controlled Environment
Agriculture (CEA) aquaponic farms to the Caribbean island nation of Puerto
In September 2017, Puerto
Rico’s existing problems – lack of infrastructure, unreliable power grid,
importing vast majority of its food – became exponentially worse with the
landfall of Category 5 Hurricane Maria. And without the necessary organization,
relief, and support, the nation struggles – to this day – to get back up on its
What Puerto Rico needs
is a protected, local food source that can thrive irrespective of the weather –
providing the island’s population with fresh, locally-grown fruits, vegetables,
and fish that are available all year round. And so, Fusion Farms proposes to build a series of hurricane protected,
climate controlled aquaponics farms.
What is an
Aquaponics is a
sustainable method of farming that combines aquaculture (raising fish) and
hydroponics (cultivating plants in water). It is an elegantly simple
agricultural model that leverages the existing natural relationship between
various components of the food chain, namely plants and fish. In an aquaponic
system, plants are grown in a closed environment fed by nutrient rich water
This nutrient rich
water is created by fish (i.e. fish poop), which is fed through the vertically
stacked tiers of plants. The plants filter out the nutrients and nitrates,
thereby cleaning the water, which is then returned to the fish tanks. In this
way, an aquaponics farm is one great big loop that requires lesser inputs than
a traditional farm and is certainly far less vulnerable to external influences.
A Deep Water Culture hydroponics system where
plants grow directly into the nutrient rich water without a soil medium. Plants
can be spaced closer together because the roots do not need to expand outwards
to support the weight of the plant. Source: Bryghtknyght – Own work, CC BY 3.0.
Harvest 365 days a year
There are no seasons in
a controlled environment facility and so plants and fish can be grown and
harvested 365 days a year. Furthermore, and according to the resident scientist
and lead aquaponics technician at EcoLife
Conservation, Martin Niwinski, since nutrients are constantly available to
plants’ roots, plants can grow up to 25% faster than in soil.
Using less water
By recycling its water,
aquaponics requires substantially less water than traditional farming. This is
especially beneficial in the parts of Puerto Rico that receive lower rainfall,
as well as in other water-restricted communities and countries around the
Requiring less land and
conserving indigenous vegetation
constructed systems, plants can be grown in vertical tiers – one on top of the
other (as shown in the 3D rendering below). This means that much less land is
required to produce exponentially more produce, thus negating the need to clear
indigenous vegetation to accommodate farmlands.
3D rendering of vertical racks of hydroponically
grown plants inside Fusion Farms’
100% Pesticide free produce
In a closed environment
aquaponics farm, both fish and plants are less vulnerable to external
influences, so pesticides aren’t necessary. In any case, fish are extremely
sensitive to chemicals so you couldn’t even hope to maintain such a system
You can grow what you like
Many of the fruits,
vegetables, and leafy greens that are popular in the United States need to be
imported to Puerto Rico because they do not grow well in the island’s tropical
climate. With a controlled climate facility, Fusion Farms will be able to grow the produce that is in the
For a sustainable future
Currently, Puerto Rico
imports a staggering 90% of its fresh produce, which has to travel hundreds if
not thousands of miles to get to grocery store shelves. By establishing a
reliable, local source of fresh produce, Fusion
Farms will eliminate the need to import food, thereby contributing to a
much more sustainable future.
There are many
challenges to funding, setting up, building, and running an aquaponics farm,
especially on the island of Puerto Rico. But the team at Fusion Farms has already devised the answers to many of these
challenges. By combining elements of hydroponics, aquaculture, and renewable
energy in a fully contained and controlled environment, Fusion Farms could potentially solve many of the crises facing the
island nation today.
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!
You can help Fusion Farms establish a food sovereign future for Puerto Rico and many nations like it by investing in our pilot project.
There’s a food revolution going on and producers that don’t keep up with the times will find their share of the market slipping between their fingers.
With the relentless passage of time, advances in technology, and spread of environmental and #health awareness come a myriad of ever-shifting trends that affect the foods and produce we are prepared to put in our grocery baskets. These trends range from packaging, which must be environmentally friendly or it won’t be supported, to a growing preference for local producers and suppliers – the fewer the “food miles”, the better. What these trends tend to have in common are the betterment of the environment and the increasing support of local farmers.
Here’s what we expect to see in 2019….
Don’t forget the “Baby Boomers”
2019 Food trend: as Baby Boomers continue to embrace technology and educate themselves in the options available to them, they too will become savvier in their food choices.
Baby Boomers might be approaching their 70’s in age, but their increasing grasp of technology is empowering them to make more intelligent food choices, as is the case with the younger generations. Given that they constitute 25% of the population (and have the most buying power of all the generations), they matter enormously as a target market.
Innovations in packaging
Molded pulp uses recycled newsprint to form package components. Here, researchers are molding packaging from straw. Source: Peggy Greb, Public Domain.
2019 Food trend: we expect to see the continued development of innovative, environmentally friendly packaging options that ensure fresher produce.
Today’s consumer demands food that is fresh, ripe, and unprocessed but also delivered in packaging that is made from environmentally friendly, biodegradable materials. In order for grocery stores to keep shoppers happy, they need to stock produce that has a longer shelf life and that has a lesser environmental impact.
Local shopping the “in” thing
2019 Food trend: more and more consumers are favoring locally grown, fresh produce over imported, pre-packaged, processed goods.
The fewer the miles food has to travel to get on the plate, the better. It means less transport-related pollution and fresher produce. This is a concept referred to as #foodmiles – why pay for vegetables that have traveled thousands of miles and waited several days in customs, when you can buy something that was harvested from the ground that very morning from a local farmer’s market? Within grocery stores and supermarkets, it is also preferable to see that the fresh produce is locally sourced.
If distributors turn their attention to local producers, they won’t only help to stimulate the local economy, but will also contribute enormously to a healthier environment.
Traceable and transparent
2019 Food trend: the demand for organic products peaked in 2018. Now, the focus shifts to accommodate traceability and transparency, which essentially helps consumers understand where their food comes from, how it was grown/treated, and how many miles it has had to travel, etc.
There are proliferating numbers of software programs and apps that allow consumers to trace the origins of their food right down to the plot of land it was grown on and the chemicals that were used to treat it during its growth cycle. Some apps help the public determine which producers operate sustainably, while others lead them to the best local alternatives in an effort to reduce food miles.
We are moving into an era in which the consumer wants to see more than just the product of #agriculture – they also want to see the story behind it and do their bit to contribute by making the most sustainable, environmentally friendly food choices possible.
The public holds the agricultural sector accountable
2019 Food trend: the agricultural sector needs to prioritize transparency, sustainability, and humane food practices or else suffer the penalties.
Last year, the emphasis was on getting food produce from farm to market in the most environmentally friendly way possible. This year, the pressure is on the agricultural sector to further reduce their carbon footprint and #greenhouse gas emissions, while improving the quality and freshness of their produce. They are also expected to be as humane as possible in the processing of animal products, with buzzwords being “free-range”, “grass-fed”, etc.
Food producers who don’t adhere to these pressures risk more than just a loss of consumer support; they might also face penalties and fines in the future.
A better, healthier food future
Locally sourced produce and farmers markets have become increasingly popular. Source: www.Pixabay.com
2019’s Food trends, which will hopefully extend into the coming decade, aren’t just reserved for Millennials and hipsters. Technology, food apps, and the vast and limitless reach of the Internet have empowered consumers across multiple generations to make more intelligent food choices. These are the everyday decisions that will help to clean up the environment by reducing food miles and eliminating plastic packaging; hold the agricultural sector accountable by demanding greater sustainability, humane practices, and transparency; limiting food wastage; and empowering local farmers, communities, and economies.
Fusion Farms in Puerto Rico aims to incorporate these food trends and practices in our indoor, hurricane-protected #aquaponics agricultural model, not only here in the beautiful Mayagüez district on the western portion of the island, but anywhere and everywhere our model is adopted.