Fusion Farms vertical indoor aquaponic farm ‘paving way to food security in Puerto Rico’
On the western side of Puerto Rico, an innovative agribusiness company with ample growth projections aims to bring about the island’s food sovereignty and security by becoming a reliable source of fresh, nutritious food and eliminating the reliance on sub-par food imports.
Fusion Farms, Puerto Rico’s first and only hurricane-protected vertical indoor aquaponic farm developer and operator, is growing a year-round, reliable, and prolific harvest of fresh leafy greens, herbs, vegetables, and fruits. Establishing the operation entailed a $3 million initial investment.
Food production is carried out in empty warehouses owned by the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company, creating a controlled environment by practicing non-traditional agricultural techniques.
Fusion Farms currently produces a variety of dark leafy greens including lettuce, kale, arugula, spinach, as well as a range of herbs and spices, including types of mint, basil, watercress, edible flowers, strawberries, and microgreens.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for fresh produce has increased significantly, which has led Fusion Farms to increase its operation in Mayagüez and to evaluate locations in other industrial parks throughout the island, executives said.
The location for the first phase of Fusion Farms’ expansion is the Guanajibo Industrial Park in Mayagüez, where the company currently occupies an 11,500 square-foot building.
It is increasing available cultivation space by more than 500% and food production capacity by over 1,200%. Compared with conventional farming, their system of vertical racks and shelves for indoor plant growth in deep water culture allows Fusion Farms to obtain an annual yield nine to 12 times higher with 95% less water consumption.
“The amount of food needed to feed the world’s population over the next 30 years will exceed the total amount of food already produced by 100%. The situation is even more perilous when you factor in that only 30% of the total available land can be farmed. This trend is a wake-up call for all of us, and with the current agricultural system buckling and demand outstripping supply, the need to adopt innovative and more efficient ways to grow food is undeniable,” said the company’s co-founder, Kendell Lang.
With knowledge in biology, real estate and business, Lang along with his wife Lisa Jander, co-founder and director of Sustainability, Art, & Education, brought Fusion Farms to life in 2018.
“We immediately established contact with the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez to establish collaborations with the academic and the scientific community in the areas of Agricultural Sciences and Agronomy,” Lang said.
“Today, we have intern students, scientists from the university community, as well as graduate employees from the UPR, who are an integral part of our team,” Lang explained. Currently, the company has 18 employees in its workforce. The project has required an investment of $3 million and has secured grants for the project of more than $400,000,” he said.
Within the company’s facilities, the temperature, humidity, and other variables are controlled to guarantee world-class plantings, free of pests, pesticides and climatic changes that may affect them.
This type of environment promotes and optimizes accelerated growth in cycles of 28 days and allows to grow food 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.
With this technology the local market can consume fresh aquaponic crops of the highest quality while reducing imports,” Lang said.
Fusion Farms is also working to adopt solar energy in its operations and has implemented processes of reduction, reuse, and recycling of its waste to ensure optimal sustainability methods in this project.
The company has received requests from the US mainland, Europe, and the Caribbean to replicate its innovative model. Requests from the island of Barbados to Norway, have expressed interest in cultivating with the company’s aquaponics system.
“We have undertaken this project with a lot of passion and with the desire to provide consumers with locally grown nutritious products that can be available all year round. Since we started, we’ve had broad support from our customers and we appreciate their trust, patronage and commitment to join us in this initiative to help strengthen our agriculture with innovative technologies and thus contribute to the elimination of food imports,” said Lang.
The restaurant and hospitality sectors have found in Fusion Farms a supplier of fresh, local, and high-quality products. Fusion Farms products can be purchased at select locations in the Econo supermarkets chain, at FamCoop Edward’s Food Mart in Rincón and other local stores.
The company expects to expand its footprint to other supermarket chains on the island in the next 12 months.