“Climate change won’t halt our agriculture.”
Department of Agriculture explores its impact on Puerto Rican farming
By Richard Gutiérrez
Climate change remains a global concern, and its effects on civilizations and the environment are subject to intense discussions by governments, corporations, and non-profit organizations worldwide. Puerto Rico is no exception to this global conversation, which prompted Ramón González Beiró, the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, to convene Puerto Rican company owners, farmers, government representatives, academics, and other members of the agricultural industry to the Puerto Rico Convention Center for an open forum on climate change titled: “Adapting Our Agriculture to Climate Change.”
As the event commenced, González Beiró addressed the significance of being prepared for potential challenges brought on by climate change. “They are saying that World War 3 will probably revolve around food. I can’t predict the future in that regard, but there is evidence that we are already experiencing the effects of climate change in Puerto Rico,” he stated. “That is why we are gathered here today, to address issues directly related to agriculture, as without agriculture, there is no food production, and without food production, any country can suffer from starvation. We need to work together, the agriculture industry and the government of Puerto Rico alike,” he added.
The conference focused on the complex topic of agriculture and was divided into six distinct presentations: Agrivoltaics, Animal Genetics for Meat and Dairy Products, Desalination for Consumption and Reservoir Conservation for Crop Watering, Precision Risk Systems, Biotechnological Agriculture, and Production in a Controlled Environment.
The first conference, hosted by Andrew Kennedy, Co-founder of Phoebus Fund, highlighted their concept of Agrivoltaics and its potential implementation in Puerto Rico. Agrivoltaics involves combining solar energy and traditional farming by placing solar panels above actively cultivated land, allowing light diffusion for continued crop growth. “This is basically the dual use of lands,” said Kennedy.
“The concept of agrivoltaics has been around since the 80s, but true research and development have occurred since 2012, mainly because modern solar panels are much more efficient now,” he explained.
Kennedy believes that Puerto Rico’s tropical climate makes it an ideal place to introduce this concept. The company’s goals for clean energy include providing electricity to the local grid using off-the-shelf solar technologies, offering low-cost, self-sufficient systems that stabilize and lower grid electricity costs, and collaborating with agricultural producers near high voltage lines or substations. Regarding farmer and rancher productivity, the Agrivoltaics system aims to provide irrigation, field drainage, and material dispersal equipment to improve agricultural efficiency and maintenance.
The Secretary of the Department of Agriculture expressed optimism about the current state of agriculture on the island. “We are at a critical juncture in our island’s history, and we have the opportunity to revitalize agriculture and restore its significance,” said Gonzalez to The Star.
“Climate change, wars, pandemics, and other global situations have drastically affected the economy. To normalize renewable energy, we want to reduce the cost of energy through systems like agrivoltaics. With projects like these, Puerto Rico can become an exemplary model in agriculture for other countries worldwide. If we continue to work hard, Puerto Rico can reach new heights on a global level,” he concluded.