Interamerican University of Puerto Rico in Barranquitas gets $1.5M in USDA grants
The Barranquitas campus of the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico received two grants worth some $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which school officials said will “positively impact” 160 teachers and more than 1,200 students in modern agriculture over the next four years.
The institution will use the funding to develop two programs. The first program will train teachers in agricultural biotechnology, while the second program aims to enhance student success and experiential learning in controlled environment agriculture. Both programs are supported by Corteva Agriscience, one of the world’s leading agriculture companies with a local presence.
“The need for Puerto Rico to take greater control over its food sustainability has led Interamerican University to develop research and entrepreneurship projects to promote sustainable agriculture,” said the university’s interim president, Rafael Ramírez Rivera.
“Thanks to the development of new technologies, the advancement of science and the development of innovative agricultural practices, academic institutions, companies and industry players can provide increasingly efficient solutions to support food production, keeping us mindful of the environment,” he said.
Several efforts will be launched, including the creation of alliances, collaboration agreements, the development of research centers such as the Center for Food Safety and Sustainable Agriculture, and the Center for Nanobiotechnology, among other valuable initiatives that contribute to the wellbeing of the community.
“The vulnerability of the island’s supply chains, which became evident during the recent natural disasters, has demonstrated the growing need to prioritize food security,” said the head of Corteva in Puerto Rico, Jaime Sánchez.
“So a strategy focused on sustainable agricultural practices and education represents an opportunity for the island’s prosperity and the well-being of its citizens. We will use these grants to continue promoting knowledge in agricultural biotechnology and maximize its benefits through alliances,” he said. “We strongly believe that this four-year project will bring about a paradigm shift in the way agriculture and agricultural biotechnology education is taught.”
High level collaborations
For the project that trains K-12 teachers, Inter Barranquitas formed a strategic alliance with Corteva and joined six academic institutions including Purdue University, Fort Valley State University, Arkansas State University, West Virginia State University, Stanford University and the University of Puerto Rico.
“These alliances aim to promote academic curricular development through a continuing education certification program and professional development, in addition to carrying out an experiential learning effort in agricultural biotechnology for teachers. Professors will also be selected for summer research projects at one of the collaborating institutions,” said the dean of the Barranquitas campus, Juan A. Negrón.
The second project will address a priority educational area for the USDA: agricultural systems and technologies in the central region of the island. The first educational objective of the project — in which Interamerican’s Barranquitas and Aguadilla campuses and Corteva are collaborating — is to attract and support college students by developing a new Associate of Applied Science Degree in Precision Agriculture.
Corteva will coordinate an intensive industrial training experience to help achieve this goal. The institution will graduate students through various training activities, including experiential learning, modern laboratory activities (including a mobile agricultural laboratory), and field outreach activities.
Sánchez said the results of the four-year project will facilitate the development of a reserve of agricultural labor with the necessary knowledge and skills, rooted in the central objectives of the USDA and the establishment of agricultural educational programs in Puerto Rico’s rural regions.