How a Holiday in #PuertoRico Became a Calling to Change its Future
The Story of Fusion Farms
12 Years ago, a couple from San Diego, California, went on holiday to the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. They indulged in the island’s delicious local foods, went for walks on its spectacular beaches, and enjoyed cocktails against the island’s brilliant backdrop of turquoise water, orange sunsets, and emerald green forests. In other words, they did what most visitors to Puerto Rico do. However, for entrepreneur and real estate expert, Kendell Lang and his wife and business partner Lisa Jander, a seed was planted and the idea for a new future was born…
Struck by Beauty and Potential
Puerto Rico is a stunning, tropical island paradise in the Caribbean Sea. Source: www.Pixabay.com
Having earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, Kendell Lang has a long-standing passion for and interest in the life sciences. It was on their first month-long visit to Puerto Rico that Kendell and Lisa were struck by the island’s abundant natural resources, beauty, and population of willing, hard-working people. The beginnings of a dream were born: the dream to start a farm. And yet, they were surprised to learn that close to 80% of the produce consumed on the island was imported. Additionally, the strict import regulations mean that the “fresh” produce that is brought in is extremely poor quality once it finally reaches the island.
Then, in September 2017, Category 5 Hurricane Maria made landfall.
Hurricane Maria and Recovery
Hurricanes are large-scale weather systems that cause widespread damage with their intense wind speeds, torrential rainfall, and associated severe weather. Source: www.Pixabay.com
Hurricane Maria claimed over 5,000 lives and left almost every farm on the island utterly devastated, and most homes without power. This increased Puerto Rico’s reliance on imported produce – a problem that persists to this day.
The couple made their return to Puerto Rico a few months after the hurricane only to discover a scene that appeared as though the entire island had been run through some sadistic cosmic blender. Enormous 100-year-old trees had been stripped bare and snapped like twigs, power lines and poles were down everywhere, and the roofs had been ripped off houses.
Kendell and Lisa met with locals, workers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and contractors from all over the United States to listen to their stories. The accounts of those who had experienced the hurricane were not what they expected. In spite of the damage, carnage, and loss, there were silver linings where most could see only thunderclouds.
“We were humbled and blessed by the openness, positive outlook and outpouring of community support the Puerto Ricans displayed,” says Lisa. “Grateful that their homes made of concrete remained intact despite the missing roofs and personal possessions destroyed or washed away by the flood – the resilience was astounding.”
This solidified the awakening sense of destiny that Kendell and Lisa felt on the island. Conversations between them shifted to questions about how they could be a part of the long-term recovery of Puerto Rico and how they could contribute to its future. The answer lay in farming…but, not the traditional kind.
Fusion Farms is born
The idea to build hurricane-protected indoor, Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) aquaponics farms became the fleshed-out concept behind a new organization and enterprise: Fusion Farms. Here, safe from the weather and under optimal growing conditions, a local team could work to harvest fruits, vegetables, herbs, and even #tilapia, all of which is 100% fresh, pesticide-free, all-natural, non-GMO, affordable, and reliable in supply.
Cherry tomatoes grown in a Controlled Environment Agriculture facility. Source: www.Pixabay.com
“We understood the need for fresh, nutrient-rich food; we recognized that the dilapidated condition of the power grid would be an on-going battle; we knew there would be a language barrier to some degree…but our desire to melt into the wonderful culture and change the narrative for Puerto Rico was stronger than any misgivings we might have had early on,” says Kendell.
Make an Impact: Invest
Hurricane-protected, climate controlled, bio-secure, pesticide-free, fully indoor, mostly off-grid, sustainable, and scalable… these are the buzzwords used by Kendell to describe the new venture he and Lisa are currently launching. And they’ve already made good progress: today, the couple has successfully and permanently moved to Puerto Rico and are hard at work at the task of creating an indoor #aquaponics farm. They’ve also received approval to purchase one of the many abandoned hurricane protected warehouses on the island, and have put together a fully rendered plan of their intended operation.
“This island has so much to give and we would like to give back. Our mission is to create jobs for Puerto Ricans – students, farmers, and other hard-working individuals – and our goal is to help turn the tide of reliance on food imports and traditional farming that is always exposed to the elements,” says Lisa.
You too can become a part of Puerto Rico’s recovery and story.