OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Neuroplastic Routes of Splendor

The Power of a Neuroplastic Network Collective to achieve the sustainability of the agricultural sector in Puerto Rico.

Photo of Camille Collazo
5 4

Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Rico Inc.

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Farmer Co-Op or Farmer Business Organization: Mother Earth Organic Cooperative Small Company: Tais: Large Company: City Winery Smal NGO: Boricuá Organization: entity that promotes Puerto Rican agroecology. (CONSULTAR) Departamento de la Comida (CONSULTAR) Large NGO: Slow Food= they are logistic support in our agrotourism. Its purpose is to protect endemic crops that have a rich history on the Island, organization that perfectly matches our sustainable food system. Agriculture Commission of the Bar Association of Puerto Rico: advance public policy to protect small & medium scale farmers. Foundation For Puerto Rico Youth Organization: Slow Food Youth Network Researcher Institute UPRRU: Cruz Miguel Cuadra Government Tourism Company Investment based Organization FarmAid: Donation Fund collaboration for Family Farmers Disaster Recovery. Media Outlet Discover Puerto Rico: promote our content and offer. Publimedia CRANS: Dr. María C

Website of Legally Registered Entity

www.visitrico.org

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

San Juan

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Puerto Rico

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Puerto Rico

What country is your selected Place located in?

Puerto Rico

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Puerto Rico is my home, born and raised. I left the Island for a while just because I wanted to follow my dream of doing my MFA Design as Entrepreneur at the School of Visual Arts, (with a professor from IDEO). When I was in the middle of the journey, my father got cancer (2014).  My answer: to design a solution to the health crisis in Puerto Rico. It was important to shed light on the physical, mental and emotional crisis that accompanies the lack of healthy food availability for all; by supporting one of the pilar sources of health: our Ecological Farmers, the protectors of our finite natural resources. I decided to create VisitRico.

In Puerto Rico, we only produce 15% of our food and the majority is not ecological. We spend 3.5B annually importing agricultural products and food. They become 8.5B in retail sales we also buy. Processed food that is making us sick. In the face of the national instability and food crisis, we need to take care of ourselves. It begins with what we eat and lowering our stress levels by sharing time doing social buffering with our community. 

Little did I know that I would become one of the statistics for whom we build VisitRico. The Executive Director of VisitRico, myself, is one of the millions of women with an autoimmune condition, which I also joined by chance. For instance, didn’t care much about keeping health insurance. Doctors ignored my family history: cancer, Hashimoto, arthritis rheumatoid. Technically 1 in 22 family members will get an autoimmune disease, women are most in danger and especially Latinas. My team and my fellow Puerto Ricans can relate to this story. I check-in many of these criteria boxes. 

Nowadays, VisitRico is a team of 5 decades: fabulous women and men in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s. I believe that a multigenerational team brings strengths that enrich the conversation. That is what VisitRico is built for, to be the pivot vessel of hope and understanding. I am part of a Puerto Rican pivot.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

https://vimeo.com/user105976510

Puerto Rico is my home, born and raised. I left the Island to follow my dream of doing an MFA in Design as Entrepreneur at the School of Visual Arts, (with a professor from IDEO). When I was in the middle of the journey, my father got cancer (2014).  My outlet dealing with my father’s disease was  designing solutions to the general health crisis in Puerto Rico. I wanted to shed light on the connection between our food and lifestyle with the physical, mental and emotional crisis that currently plagues the island. I chose one of the pilar sources of health:  nutritious food, Ecological Farmers, protectors of our finite natural resources. With the Ecological Farmers as nexus, I created VisitRICO with my father’s health at heart.

Puerto Rico produces less than 15% of its food and the majority is plagued by agrochemicals, heavy subsidies and monoculture practices. We spend 3.5B annually importing agricultural products and processed foods. The length of travel, chemicals used at place of origin and entering customs for processed food has aggravated the PR health crisis. In the face of national instability and food crisis, we need to heal our bodies more than ever. It begins with what we eat and lowering our stress levels by sharing time doing social buffering with our community. 

On January 2019 I became another statistic, being diagnosed as one of millions of women with an autoimmune condition. For instance didn’t care much about keeping health insurance. Doctors ignored my family history: cancer, hashimoto, arthritis rheumatoid. Technically 1 in 22 family members will get an autoimmune disease, women are most in danger, especially Latinas. My team and my fellow Puerto Ricans can relate to this story. 

VisitRico’s team spans five decades of fabulous women and men in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s. I believe that a multigenerational team brings strengths that enrich the conversation. That is what VisitRico is built for, to be a nexus of hope and healing. 



What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

13800

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

3195

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

If our climate changes, the land in which our food grows also changes. Therefore, the policies that govern the current agricultural structure must unquestionably change, too. Puerto Rico’s agricultural sector has conflicting public policies that promote the productive incapacity and inefficiency.  This frustrating atmosphere arises discontent among the farmers, generating that the communication network between them is scarce and ineffective. 

Although Visit Rico has been working for five years to attend the agricultural sector, we pinpointed the problem just after the most catastrophic hurricane, Maria, because at once, the veil of our food precariousness on the Island was torn off. It is necessary to remember that this problem of Conflicting Public Policies is also environmental in nature.

Those mainly affected by climate change and obsolete land policies are Puerto Rican farmers, especially small and medium-scale producers. Food insecurity limits the accessibility of sufficient supplies and generates food insecurity. Ultimately, Puerto Rican producers and consumers are directly affected if the food produced has negative health consequences. Our agriculture does not have the support and protection of public policy, much less the economic competition of imported products through the Merchant Marine, Jones 1920 Act, which decides what is eaten in Puerto Rico. More expensive food enters; agriculture is not subsidized by the government to be considered competitive.

 

Some other important challenges are:

1. Aging of our farmers with an average age of 59.1 years 

2. High school level of education or less. 

3. 59% of our farmers they don't consider agriculture their source of income principal. 

4. Limitation of agricultural land and the new public policy of using the land

coastal to sow seed and not food (Bayer). 

5. Problem with the deficiency of management and administrative operation of our farms. 

6. Problem in the management of permits and regulations that are required by the government

State and municipal. 

7. Operating costs and lack of sufficient capital. 

8. Availability and use of water. 

9. Availability of access to machinery and equipment for small and medium farms. 

10. After hurricanes Irma and María, the need to spread

seeds and crop insurance that is limited to a single product. 

11. The correct use of the tariff charged for the importation of foreign coffee, elimination of agricultural subsidies and new definition of bonafide farmer.

 

The tool that speeds up the process of adaptation and technological adaptation is called "Data Hub: Neuroplastic Collective Network ". The “Data Hub” initiative is a  database created in 2017 after Hurricanes Irma & Maria to measure the progress of farms Agroecological and create statistics of the sector. One of the biggest challenges for 2050 is to ensure that this splendor route of using  “Data Hub”  exist without the help and audit of Visit Rico as an organizing and procuring entity behind the farms.


Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

VisitRico’s DataHub became an innovative precedent for connecting farming and investment.  After Hurricane Maria, we promoted the creation of Agroecological Action a workshop table that enacted immediate relief strategies.  The gathered crucial data on the importance of connecting producers with consumers through direct in farm exchanges.  That is how “Data Hub” was born. A franchise framework agricultural project that addressed the historical abandonment of the agricultural sector.  It maintained the continuity and monitoring of strategically important agro-tourism projects to give an additional boost to our agriculture and serve as integration nexus for capital and knowledge exchange.  

The “Data Hub” initiative, created in 2017, measured agroecological farms’ progress and monitored the first agroecological sector statistics.  With new data, we were able to identify and address farmers’ needs. With this tool we could visualize the relationship between our stakeholders, farmers, consumers, landscape, and produce in one place; to exponentially increase a farm’s success and visibility. The module design to implement an agritourism project allowed this idea to scale to multiple projects , ensuring that the project was viable, replicable and sustainable. It incorporated learning at all levels, improving age, schooling and gender division statistics dedicated to the Agriculture.

VisitRico created the first Interpretation of Agrocultural Heritage Certification as a way to empower farmers. It offered a direct connection between audience and farm committed to guard and preserve crops, traditions and agricultural knowledge. The Program helped farmers communicate emotional and intellectual connections between the interest of the visitors and the true meaning of agroecological space: management of that landscape in the hands of the people. A manual was prepared with multi-year projections which harnessed our farmers accumulated knowledge. The agrotourism routes will integrate in their offers hostels, airbnbs, restaurants, cultural and artistic experiences of the community that highlight our historical heritage.  

Open Space Dinner tables “Mesas de Campo” were an interactive gastronomic experience in ecological farms where the consumer learned about products directly from the land. 

Community Based Sustainable Tourism connected travelers who wanted to volunteer their time with transformative experiences related to agroecological practices and local nutrition while matching the interests of local and international volunteers with the needs for labor that have different farms. 

The combination of VisitRico’s programs opened up new value chains created in the elaboration of products for on farm consumption. Tourism and agriculture became two powerful revitalizers that combined successfully under agrotourism to diversify landscape and available healthy food offers, securing our basic basket against a future extreme event or system’s collapse. . 

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Let’s play, and let’s play the soundtrack of our high vision. I hear the beautiful sound of our families laughing and maybe fighting like sisters and brothers do, just being people, lovely people. I approach Loiza and I can hear drums and smell the delicious food that makes my mouth salivate. Flying above the islands, every mountain, every islet, I see a Puerto Rico with a diversity of landscapes that I cannot distinguish between one another. 

I can’t distinguish clearly with a clear line between a farm and a forest. I see how things integrate among others the different uses that are given to the landscape. The cities are not monolithic, they are not these moles of cement. The green infrastructure incorporated in the urban is part of what we highlight in this tourism. We have a construction system for our people, it is integrated into their environment and incorporates appropriate technologies for sustainability, which includes the vision of water collection. An integrated system, people building chord.

I hear the noisy beautiful sounds of my fellow bird friends flying beside me and making their nests in luscious trees. 

Amorphous as our beautiful brains that shelter neurons that stand the winds of change, inclined by the winds of the sea. I see the adaptation of my people to clean new technologies that give a hand to our farmers. The labor we didn’t necessarily have the workforce to achieve right now.

I can sense and feel from afar that when there is one common challenge, the frugal differences mean nothing. 

I fly closer to the ground to eavesdrop on a conversation. A sun-burned farmer, proud, with her head  held high while she shares with a group of strangers that are not strangers of the world, but only of Puerto Rico, the wonders of how the decision to preserve a variety of seeds opens a window to awe. They have the same dreamers in their country. They know it and will find them when they return. 

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

https://vimeo.com/388593924

Food has historically been a catalyst for social, political and economic change, and given our current economic situation, I strongly believe that sponsoring local food efforts is a great starting point for dramatic change. We believe that small scale agro-ecological family farms are not only viable, but desirable and necessary. Conventional farming and biotech companies in our island jeopardize our soil and the food we feed our families. 

In 2014 we embarked on a personal journey to eliminate food problems and to make sure that VisitRico as we know it, won’t need to exist by 2050. With our slogan: Awaken a new appetite for what grows in Puerto Rico.

There is a matter of the path traveled, as VisitRico we’ve been innovative in what we’ve done and during that journey we identified challenges and deficiencies. They include communication, coordination, identifying projects, visibility and connection. Challenges that in our innovative process what we did when we joined as non-profit organization in Puerto Rico, already in itself, breaking in lots of molds. 

In that apocalyptic scenario we’ve identified what generates from the needs to then create tools for that. This gives us more weight in that we do not create them because we do need to address a need for the track record we were carrying but when the system collapses, how can we respond better.

VisitRico, from the framework provided by tourism as creative activism strategy to develop our communities, joined an alliance of The Interdisciplinary institution made with the objective to advance our food sovereignty. It is the women and men from different municipalities in Puerto Rico that are the protagonists of this effort. This effort will be build around the objective of contributing to the development of Sustainable AgroEco Culinary Tourism. This framework opens space for the construction of a social, cultural, political, economic process. It will dispose the participants to reflect and design participate in each one of the routes of splendor. These reflections let us recognize and value the importance of the knowledge and practices of each municipalities own identity, history, present and future of our rural spaces. 

After Hurricane Maria in 2017, VisitRico realized that there was no complete database of the agricultural sector because family farmers, independent, small-scale farmers or cooperatives in Puerto Rico are not parts of government statistics. Now in 2020,  after the terrible earthquakes that Puerto Rico experimented, for example, the four main need areas of family farmers, independent, small-scale or cooperative, according to data collected firsthand by Visit Rico, are: loss of housing or significant structural damage (43%), crop loss (40% ), labor (27%) and emotional damage (22%).

The largest geographic lattice of aid applications of information received comes from towns approved in a national emergency such as: Guánica, Yauco, Ponce, Peñuelas, Lajas, Adjuntas, Utuado, Lares, Cabo Rojo, San Sebastián, San Germán, Maricao. However, additional areas that have suffered collateral damage, such as: Orocovis, Las Marías, Mayagüez, Comerío, Cayey, Carolina, Arecibo, Aguada, Coamo, Caguas, Ceiba, Sábana Grande and Camuy, are also covered in the collection of applications. 

Actually, 86% of farmers are not receiving direct help of any kind, and the 44% of farms specify to be "family farms" that depend on the sale of their crops. Likewise, this network widens and deepens, since these farms employ a total of approximately 415 people who, at the same time, support their respective families.

We all know, after the chaos, the stage of regrowing in this apocalyptic world appears. For this reason, VisitRico created Data Hub: Neuroplastic Collective Network. 

The Data Hub is an updated and live data bank that allows predicting, through data crossing, various possible scenarios for optimal decision making in the agricultural sector. The Data Hub takes into account weather, season of the year, natural disasters (hurracanes, earthquakes), etc.

We expect that in 2050 farmers have already adopted these technology as a brain that forecasts and directs their routes of action in the face of the impending chaos of the apocalyptic world. Then, VisitRico will no longer have to exist.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Whatsapp messag

5 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Village Development  Center (VDC)
Team

Thank you so much for the Food Extension Initiative.

Photo of Camille Collazo
Team

That is very kind of you! Thank you for your commitment!! A lot of contributions, that is wonderful!

View all comments