Morales Farm to boost recao production by 25% with new packaging tech
Morales Farm — a hydroponic recao farm based in Moca — is preparing for a 25% increase in production from 75,000 to 100,000 recao packs sold and distributed by 2023 after acquiring a $38,000 packaging machine from Yabucoa’s Industrias Goldpack Puerto Rico company.
The farm currently has hydroponic structures spanning 14,000 square feet, built to cultivate recao and distribute some 2,000 packs — which the machine will fill with two ounces of the fragrant herb — three to four times a week to Selectos supermarkets along the west side of the island.
“We’ve always continued to increase production, starting with 3,000 square feet in 2007, then going up to 7,000 square feet, and as a result, I now have 14,000 square feet, and I’m trying to increase production for next year, since I was affected by [Hurricane] Fiona,” said César Morales, owner of Morales Farm.
He said some 7,000 square feet of space used to produce the herb in the hydroponic structure was affected, as it got hit directly by the storm’s winds.
The damages were estimated at $48,000 and Morales had to fix the structure and harvest the plants that were left to keep production going.
Still, he said Hurricane María in 2017 dealt a harder blow to the operation.
“In 2017, when Hurricane María passed, in addition to the recao, which by then occupied 7,000 square feet of space, I had plantains and if I add the two losses — the lost crops and damages to the structure, and what we didn’t sell — it was about $275,000,” said Morales.
So, that’s when he began adopting different technologies to run the farm — solar panels to generate energy and a water collection system that is connected to a digitalized watering system for the recao structures, he said.
“Before we had the solar system, the irrigation system was affected, since it is electric. With a power generator you have additional expenses, but with a solar system, the power can go out and we keep going,” said Morales.
“We recycle all the rainwater, store it in 8,000 gallons, in several 1,000-gallon cisterns that accumulate to 8,000 gallons of water, and with that, we can go 15 days without rain, running in that system, although, being in the western area means it rains very frequently,” said Morales.
Morales Farm currently has one full-time employee and a part-time employee, although Morales is hoping to hire more employees to work the field, he says it is very hard to get new people involved for lack of interest.
Lastly, if Morales were to hire another employee, or if the integration of the new packing machine is successful, he would like to go back to growing plantains in his farm again, he said.
The farm is participating in initiatives with the private sector, such as the “La Fuerza del Trabajo AgroTech” call, which Ram Trucks launched last month to offer more than $80,000 in prizes to an entrepreneur who is innovating in the area of agriculture, as News is my Business reported. The applications deadline is Nov. 23.