Funding Friday: Food Security for Puerto Rico

An AVC community member sent me to this GoFundMe project last weekend and I backed it.

They are raising $20k to build two hydroponic vertical tower farms in two communities in Puerto Rico.

A tower farm looks like this:

This is from the project page:

Puerto Rican families need sovereignty over their own food supply. Before Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico was 80% reliant on imports to supply the island’s food. Now they are 100% reliant on imported food. 

People need access to fresh water and food to live. There is no time to waste in launching the agricultural revitalization that Puerto Rico so desperately needs. The local government is financially over-extended and has limited support from FEMA. Lives depend on us.

And this is the team behind this project:

Green Food Solutions was co-founded by Electra Jarvis and Mary Wetherill. We are a vertical farming company. We sell, install, and maintain hydroponic vertical farms and provide educational presentations and workshops as part of our commitment to health, the environment and food justice. We are based in NYC and grow food out of a 10,000 square foot greenhouse in the Bronx. 

If you want to make this project a reality, you can back it here.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Jeremy Robinson

    Thank you Fred for backing this project and for publishing information about it. I just backed it as well. I’m hoping that if every second person who reads your blog will back this project, then maybe that would make a nice dent it getting it funded. Whose next?

  2. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Absolutely funding this one.They seem to be lagging in support. Would be cool if one or two super wealthy people just went ahead and funded the whole thing. I hear Puerto Rico has a lot of crypto startups based there :oD…

    1. LE

      Would be cool if one or two super wealthy people just went ahead and funded the whole thingBut that isn’t really the point of a gofundme campaign is it? ‘Wealthy’ [1] people do give away money. In fact they have foundations setup to do this. And people apply for grants and funding after going through the process (and can obviously do this with as many foundations as they like).https://www.gatesfoundationhttp://www.minneapolisfound…That said I am sure if someone wanted to take the time to pitch or cold call some rich ndividuals they would give money to this. But that but that would a bit of effort (third party I mean meaning anyone could do that with their time).[1] I am curious what your and others definition of ‘wealthy’ is.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        If I was worth $30 million, the $20k that this campaign is seeking would be a drop in the bucket to me.If getting funding for a campaign isn’t the point of gofundme, I’m not sure what is. Maybe it matters to these folks that they don’t get it all from one or two places. But I’m betting it doesn’t. I’m betting they just want to help the people of Puerto Rico achieve food independence.

        1. LE

          If I was going to donate $20k I would drive either to Camden NJ or Atlantic City NJ and spend it there. I think PR is a great place and have visited it many times no question and love it. I wanted to buy a place there actually. But I don’t think it’s fair to try and guilt a person (worth $30 million or $500 million) for a cause that you have interest in (that they might not) vs. something they would spend their money on and believe in.As far as ‘drop in the bucket’ there are a million things to give away money to. What makes this more worthy than those other things?

          1. Richard

            I’ve changed my thinking on local giving. Wealth seems to be too concentrated for the local only approach.

          2. Kirsten Lambertsen

            I’m unclear if you think I’m “guilting” someone? That would be an interpretation on your part. I didn’t point fingers. I just said I thought it would be cool.Like, relax.

          3. LE

            Like, relax.Let’s say you are standing at your school reunion among a group of from outward appearance are ‘rich friends’. You aren’t rich (for the purpose of my point; after all I don’t know your worth) and you say the same or similar thing. You don’t address anyone in particular. You just say ‘seem to be lagging in support. Would be cool if one or two super wealthy people just went ahead and funded the whole thing.’. How do you think that would be interpreted? After all you didn’t name names.That would be an interpretation on your part.Everything I say is an interpretation on my part. Isn’t that the point of making a comment? I said what I said in a nice and respectful way. As I almost always do. And I take the time and put in the effort to detail exactly what I think and why (even with footnotes).You on the other hand ends your last reply with ‘like relax’.

          4. Kirsten Lambertsen

            So, while I said, “like, relax” in what I saw as a friendly, joking manner, I’ll allow it could be interpreted as sarcastic.But, my dude: your response, to my light comment that it would be cool for some rich people to fund it, was really disproportionate. Your interpretation is just that, and the thing is, you didn’t even think to question your interpretation for a moment and ask me what I meant.You accused me of not knowing how GoFundMe works. You also suggested that I’m somehow unaware of the charitable efforts of the wealthy. And THEN it would seem that you were accusing me of being too lazy to pick up a phone and pitch rich people to help Puerto Rico.When I corrected your interpretation, you *went on* to tell me that your interpretation mattered more than my intent.We would seem to have different ideas about what ‘respectful’ means.I guess what you’re trying to tell me is that you don’t think it would be cool if it got funded by rich people?

          5. LE

            You accused me of not knowing how GoFundMe works.No I said:But that isn’t really the point of a gofundme campaign is it?If I had said ‘you don’t know how gofundme works!!!’ that would be accusing you. And I feel that if ‘if one or two super wealthy people just went ahead and funded the whole thing’ then that provides a disincentive for the entire platform business wise. The point is to allow multiple people to donate and to keep them engaged in doing so. You then also run into the problem of signaling. Imagine if a church has a fundraiser. Everyone attends. But regularly one or two people buy up everything. What happens then? No reason to have fundraisers (in a strict sense). And what about things that the wealthy don’t buy out? People may think ‘hmm what’s the story’. Signaling.You think this is not true? The high school that I went to got the largest ever donation (over $100 million) from an ex alumni affiliated with Warren Buffet. The immediate thought was that it would kill others motivation to donate on a regular basis small and medium size amounts.I could say more but will end with this comment on where you said this:By the way, let’s not bicker. I’ve made a pledge to Fred to not trash up his comments with personal arguments.I don’t agree that a discussion like this is ‘personal arguments’ and trashes things up. But that is your choice to make of course.To me this is not bickering. I never made a promise to Fred and I have no intention of censoring what I say. [1] I would go one step further and say that there are many people who read the blog because of the comments and the back and forth. That is a positive aspect of this blog not a negative one. Engagement of people and the number of comments respectfully written make it a popular place for discussion. Most bloggers would want this. What Fred has made clear is that he doesn’t want venomous political discussions.[1] If Fred told me not to I wouldn’t of course but he has not. And by ‘tell me’ I mean in a direct way.

          6. Kirsten Lambertsen

            I just meant I didn’t want to get into a tiff here about who insulted who more 😛 I doubt anyone wants to read that.I disagree about crowdfunding, especially in the case of something like this. The point *for the crowdfunder* is to get funded. Period. They really don’t care about GoFundMe’s strategic goals. If a cause keeps getting funded over and over by one or two individuals, then they can just realize they don’t need GoFundMe. Yay! That still seems like a successful outcome, if the way they came about those two funders was by going on GoFundMe in the first place.I also think that things that get funded, get more funding. The idea that they don’t is a little like saying a startup that gets VC backing has trouble attracting more investors. If Oprah thinks a cause is worth her charitable contribution, and I’m looking to support a similar cause, I’m going to check that one out because she’s already vetted it for me. But I do understand that some non-profit causes keep their big backers secret for a variety of reasons.I’m not sure the hydroponics folks are looking for an on-going backers situation. They just need some $ to get this thing going. The people of Puerto Rico probably have little or no interest in whether the $ comes from one backer or ten thousand.By the way, if they were trying to raise a million dollars, I wouldn’t have made my comment. They’re raising such a small amount.

          7. Kirsten Lambertsen

            By the way, let’s not bicker. I’ve made a pledge to Fred to not trash up his comments with personal arguments.

        2. Richard

          You make a good point. I tend to think proportional giving is the right approach.

          1. LE

            Right approach for other people or for yourself?

          2. Richard

            If someone asks me to make a donation that I am indifferent to, I’ll ask them what they are contributing. I’ll then make a guess at their net work and give proportionally

          3. LE

            In this case Fred publicly donated $100 and Kirsten publicly donated $46. (per the gofundme ticker tape).

          4. Richard

            Fred could match donations at 10x (and we would hit the 20k pretty quickly)

          5. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Plus the $4.60 tip.

          6. Kirsten Lambertsen

            To each to make her own decision. I was just saying it would be cool.

        3. Richard

          That’s about right, if you had 300k set aside, I would think $200 would be easy, but not quite automatic.

    2. Richard

      Puerto rico was once a major sugar producer and could be again. The US has high import quotas on sugar that PR is exempt from. It’s not clear why they abandoned this space.

  3. kenberger

    The news would have one believe that the crypto people are now financing the whole island…unrelated, but William’s event yesterday was excellent!! https://uploads.disquscdn.c

    1. awaldstein

      i agree, a day worthwhile.

      1. kenberger

        i didn’t get a chance to meet you?!

        1. awaldstein

          missed opportunity.

          1. aminTorres

            I was there too, wondering who else from AVC was there?Oh man, what a missed opportunity. 🙁 I helped William design most of the stuff on the digital signs/agenda., etc.

          2. awaldstein

            nicely done!

    2. jason wright

      is it the lens or is that bottle… huge?

      1. kenberger

        Indeed a huge bottle. Wm is into these natural wines.

  4. BillMcNeely

    I chipped in for $10

  5. jason wright

    The UK imports more than 50% of its food;…Its land owners are given free money by gov to do nothing with it. It’s a racket. These same land owners own huge tracts of land oversees (Zimbabwe being a prime example) and grow crops there in a ‘third world’ labour cost structure and then import it to the UK at hugely inflated margins. It’s a racket x2.

    1. Lawrence Brass

      You need sun to grow some things. 🙂

      1. jason wright

        fruit from Chile :)yes, the drugs trade is a whole other side of the agricultural/ geo political/ international financial system racket :)some enterprising natives try to hack that with heat lamps and polythene sheeting. gov disapproves. scarcity keeps prices high and profits healthy.

        1. Lawrence Brass

          Unauthorized drug trade and production is penalized here with 5 to 15 years in jail. So called “microtraffic” is also penalized with 1 to 5 years.Public consumption is penalized with a 70 to 700 USD fine, rehab and community service, at the judge’s discretion. The latter not heavy-handedly enforced though imo because it is frequent to smell pot smoke at the parks. Private consumption at home is not penalized which is funny because there is any indication in the law about the origin of such private consumption substances.

          1. jason wright

            thumbs up

  6. JLM

    .The US gained control over Puerto Rico in 1898 as a spoil of war in the Spanish-American War. The US received Cuba, Guam, and Puerto Rico. We paid $20MM for the Philippines.PR was the best producer of sugar cane — all of which was historically exported to the Spanish mother ship in the form of sugar or rum.PR never grew enough food for itself because its colonial masters controlled everything.It is one of the most fertile growing environments in the world and its grasslands can support 3X the load in cattle grazing. It is a cattleman’s dream except you have to ship your livestock to market by boat.Local control of the minimum wage and the size of farms destroyed the ability to create large efficient farms. It is often compared to Louisiana which was based on a similar sugar growing economy. Whilst Louisiana grew to a family farm size of 200+ acres, PR was headed in the opposite direction – 40 acres.This is subsistence level farming at best with little produce available for sale locally and very little diversity amongst the crops.The biggest problem is that with the failure of the sugar industry – which essentially is dead today – the government came into control of the land which means it is primarily idle.Gov’t control of land and an artificially high minimum wage combined to destroy the potential for PR to feed itself.PR has never been able to feed itself since it was a Spanish colony.This is absurd as it has great dirt (fruits, vegetables, tobacco), great grass (beef), plenty of water and rain, and a great fishery (seafood).This could be reversed within 10 years with some focused leadership.The country is an American commonwealth with the oddest citizenship arrangement. They are Puerto Rican citizens, can become Spanish citizens, and are American citizens. They can travel freely and live in the continental US.With no representation in the US Congress, Puerto Rico is screwed.All of this is to say, they require agricultural leadership to be able to feed themselves, something they have never been able to do.Puerto Rico and Cuba are two places to keep an eye on. They are going to be very attractive one day.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

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    2. sigmaalgebra

      WOW!! I sensed that PR had some problems, didn’t know HOW bad, and didn’t know why.The why seems to be yet another example of what I’ve been guessing is solid in Spanish culture — a few rich people in control of the economy and everyone else a nearly enslaved peasant.

    3. mikenolan99

      Just booked two weeks over the holidays in PR – AirBnB a big house, with all the kids coming at one time or another… looking forward to fun and sun, and helping out with a few tourism dollars.