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USDA grants $1.9M to Inter, UPR to boost agricultural, science programs

The US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture has awarded a combined $1.9 million to the InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico and the University of Puerto Rico to boost agriculture and science curriculums.

The agency awarded $948,771 to the InterAmerican University in Barranquitas and Aguadilla to pursue a proposal entitled “Farming for Future: Integrated interventions to improve student success and experimental learning in controlled environmental agriculture.”

The school will partner with Corteva Agriscience and will have the support from Purdue University. The proposal will allow more students to have access and experiences in the field of agriculture, to pursue an academic degree in a controlled environment, Inter President Manuel J. Fernós said.

“The proposal seeks to equip a mobile unit with technological components to promote studies in science and agriculture for high school students. With this, we seek to motivate the study of agricultural sciences in our youth in such a way that we help create a solid agricultural industry in the island,” said the rector of the Barranquitas Campus, Juan A. Negrón-Berríos.

The funding will also enable the purchase of laboratory equipment and technology associated with controlled environment agriculture, will facilitate the participation of students in scientific research and will provide training workshops for faculty,” said Élie Agésilas, rector of the Aguadilla Campus.

The funding will be available through July 2025, and school officials said the goal is to “enhance educational and training opportunities that will impact about 109 students in four years.”

Meanwhile, the UPR will receive $975,314 through May 2025 to develop the “HIS: The Puerto Rico Natural Resource Career Tracks” program, according to the USDA.

“This collaborative project will enhance recruitment of underrepresented Hispanic students from Puerto Rico…to advanced education and employment opportunities in USDA agencies and related entities,” the proposal’s objectives stated.

“Via experiential learning in the workplace and laboratory, we will prepare our students with tools, knowledge of basic concepts, and critical thinking necessary to address climate change impacts to agriculture and natural resources using socio-environmental-technical systems (SETS) approaches,” the UPR further noted.

The proposal seeks to use semester and summer research internships to bolster students’ specialized research experiences to prepare them for graduate studies at the Ph.D. level.

An outreach program will target K-12 students in low-income communities in urban Río Piedras and in the communities surrounding El Yunque National Forest.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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