Puerto Rico has close to 4 million residents; it imports approximately 90% of the food it consumes and by some estimates has little more than one week’s food supply on the island. Over the last several decades, the agriculture sector has declined precipitously, from over 20% of Gross National Product (GNP) to less than 1% of GNP. As a result, “food security” has declined dramatically and the reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food has become a major concern. Hydroponics can help solve this looming food security problem.
In recent years CBO Financial’s subsidiary, Community Development Funding (CDF), has expanded into Controlled Environment Agriculture such as hydroponics, focusing on sustainable production, processing and distribution of healthy foods. In 2014 CDF funded its first major investment in this area by providing $3.6M in NMTCs to Florece Hidroponia, a hydroponic tomato production facility in Morovis, Puerto Rico. Morovis is in the north central region of the Island a little over a half hour drive from San Juan and is composed in its entirety of low-income communities, with a 64% poverty rate and 22% unemployment. Historically an agricultural farm-working community, jobs have been lost as Puerto Rico’s agriculture sector has declined. Florece Hidroponia will contribute to the revitalization of this severely distressed community and provide quality jobs and skills training to low-income residents in a growth industry of significant importance.
The 175,000 square foot hydroponic facility can produce up to 2.2M pounds of tomatoes annually and represents an engine for job creation that will help revitalize the low-income community and serve as an educational and training center by incorporating observation points and work and training areas. It also provides fresh, locally produced food which is greatly lacking on the island. Florece Hidroponia is a good example of CBO Financial’s commitment to improving the lives of Puerto Rico’s citizens.