by Amaya Santiago 

Fusion Farms has developed techniques that are the way of the future. With their help, Puerto Ricans have access to  a sustainable source of food including herbs, leafy greens, lettuce, living microgreens, as well as specialty greens and specialty produce. And in addition to growing and selling food, they continue to build farms throughout the island, helping to bring more jobs and food to the people of Puerto Rico. Lisa Janders the Director of Sustainability, Art, and Education, and Dr. Annabelle Morales Droz the Director & Chief Science Officer are the two who made this all possible. After interviewing both Lisa Janders and Dr. Annabelle Morales Droz, we were able to learn more about their incredible story, and the magic behind it all. 

 

When asked what inspired her to establish Fusion Farms, Janders said that she and her husband had been interested in aquaponics for many many years, and they “traveled all around the world looking for a place to ‘retire’ and start a farm”. 

 

Although they traveled to many different places, after they saw the devastation that Hurricane Maria had caused, and the 5500sq/ft house that was in perfect condition next to the 27 acre tropical farm that was ruined by Hurricane Maria, she and her husband agreed that the place they needed to be in was Puerto Rico.. 

 

Due to the unreliability of resources on the island, and problems with infrastructure they wanted to make sure that they were self-sufficient and sustainable. And so, their hydroponics system is a deep water culture that is close looped. It uses very little water , and the system does not  add any grey water to the environment, so they don’t have any pesticides, chemicals or antibiotics for the fish. 

 

As Janders stated “anything we give the fish will kill the plants and anything bad we put on the plants will kill the fish, it’s a good checks and balances and it is by far the most nutrient complete and natural source of nutrients that they provide in this environment.” Dr. Morales Droz added that what makes this unique is that it is “the very first vertical indoor aquaponics farm in Puerto Rico”. 

 

One of the main goals of Fusion Farms is to contribute to the sustainability of the island and its people, as much as they possibly can. Fusion Farms is in partnership with the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez in order to provide internships for students. Not only do they accept students with different majors and backgrounds, but they plan on stopping the “brain drain” from the island. Dr. Morales Droz describes the “brain drain” as when the people that have the talent and knowledge to work in their facility leave the island in hopes of receiving a job or better offer because many feel that there aren’t enough opportunities on the island. Fusion Farms needs people, they need knowledge, and they need bodies, and they intend to get these people directly from the island. They wish to find and raise a new generation of farmers, because as Dr. Morales Droz said, “the farmer is no longer wearing overalls, the farmer is wearing a lab coat”. 

 

It was also said by Jander that “sustainability is not just a one and done, it is something that we want to have year after year after year, so we need the resources as well as the staff to be able to run these facilities.” “Apart from that when you think about the materials and the things that we use indoors and outdoors, our ability to put an emphasis on the recycling and the reuse are things that are really important and we try to incorporate in every aspect of the system,” she continued.” 

 

Their goal is to fix and help the island, not add to the waste that is already being dumped on it. And their indoor vertical farming method allows them to use 90% less water than is needed for regular farming. Apart from this, they create fish food from the plants that they produce, creating “vegan fish” and making the entire process as clean and sustainable as possible. 

 

Although it is common for people on the island to lose their water sources, electricity, or have everything put to a stop, Fusion Farms’ aquaponics closed looped system allows them to continue to grow their food without worry, creating food security and food sovereignty on the island which both Jander and Morales Droz feel to be two very important things that are very different. 

 

Janders explained their opinions by using this analogy; “If I rent an apartment as an example, I sign a lease, I get the keys, it’s for one year. My landlord says you may live in my place and I have the security of knowing that I have a place to live. However, he is the owner, he is the sovereign one that owns that place. So if he says at any given moment, “Hey I need my place back,” he can kick me out and take his place back. So the security piece is very important so that people know that they have food, but they also need to know that they are in ownership of the food that is here locally, provided locally, committed first and foremost to Puerto Rico.” 

 

Janders shared that before Hurricane Maria 85% of Puerto Rico’s food was imported, after Hurricane Maria this percentage shot up to 95% and it is now somewhere in the 90th percentile. This is something that Fusion Farms plans to change. 

 

With the help of their team that all come from diverse backgrounds and that bring a wealth of experience and knowledge and expertise that contribute to their business and facilities, they plan on aiding  Puerto Rico in gaining the food security and sovereignty that it needs. And with the help of their investors as well as their team and the people of Puerto Rico, they can make all of that possible and have all aspects of their business grow. 

But not only do they want to build more facilities and build more farms throughout the island of Puerto Rico, given the chance they want to expand to other islands in the Caribbean, and even the United States! And as they upscale they also scale down to meet the needs of the people of Puerto Rico. 

 

They are the farmers of the future!

Fusion Farms Leads Farmers
of the Future