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EDB provides $150K in financing for hydroponic farming in Puerto Rico

The Puerto Rico Economic Development Bank (EDB) has announced the completion of financing agreements with Agro Tech Partners in Corozal, Coquí Farm Products in Aibonito and Terra Farm in Añasco. 

Each of these businesses received $50,000 through the EDB’s special financing program to procure hydroponic farming systems. The funding will be supplemented by the Housing Department’s Renacer Agrícola de Puerto Rico (Re-Grow) program incentives.

These farmers are affiliated with Farm in the City, a pioneering urban agriculture center in Río Piedras, whose facilities are the first training center for urban and technological agriculture in the Caribbean. 

There are more than 100 farmers eligible for the incentives in 53 municipalities operating under the same brand, a Puerto Rican company dedicated to cultivating vegetables inside container-like modules. This method of farming utilizes automated technology to grow crops sustainably in what was described as a safe, comfortable, hygienic, organized environment and accessible to local consumers.

Currently, the EDB is working on financing with other farmers referred by Farm in the City. 

“At the EDB, we remain committed to meeting the specific needs of farmers. This innovative way of growing inside containers offers our farmers a higher volume of production per space, uses 90% less water than traditional crops, has greater quality control, the level of crop loss is much lower, and we work under a more flexible and comfortable environment,” said the bank’s president, Luis Alemañy. 

“Another major advantage of the module system versus traditional hydroponics with shade and plastic is its resilience to external factors such as hurricanes and storms, which are so prevalent in our tropical climate. In our recent meeting, we found that there is a great future in this vital industry that is an essential part of our economic development and that contributes 1% of the gross national product on the island,” Alemañy noted.

The hydroponic systems, as explained by agronomist Juan Valentín, account executive at the EDB, allow for organic production, “avoiding risks of losses caused by weather conditions, and reduces exposure to fungi and pesticides. These containers also offer a computerized system for nutrient distribution, temperature control and water recirculation. For example, each crop has a specific need and with this system you can program them. It would spend five minutes circulating water and air providing it with the necessary nutrients, and 15 minutes with the system stopped. All this while the crops receive the 24-hour artificial light that helps the plants grow.”

Carmen Ildefonso, co-owner of Farm in the City, explained that each module features a nursery and cultivation area capable of supporting more than 13,000 plants at a time, “which under recommended growing methods would ensure a steady supply, proving that growing in a small space is possible.” 

She added that the setup, which also uses the FarmHand application to “calculate how to distribute the vegetables throughout the module to optimize and make full use of the space,” allows for precise monitoring of the growing conditions such as the temperature and lighting.

 The EDB, under a collaborative agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ensures continuous support for farmers by providing access to capital and financial guidance. Additionally, the EDB’s ongoing outreach includes talks and panels aimed at fostering the development of the agricultural sector.

Regarding the Small Business Financing Program, the EDB has made more than 750 grants totaling more than $39 million in the agriculture sector. 

“With these allocations, more than 4,000 jobs were retained and another 2,432 created, for a total direct employment impact of 6,449. Indirect jobs are estimated at 12,898, for a total impact of direct and indirect jobs of 19,347 in the agriculture sector,” Alemañy added.

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