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Published On: Thu, Jan 2nd, 2020

4 Sustainable Startups Making Progress After Hurricane Maria

By: Carmen L. Bonilla

Originally published on LinkedIn, republished with permission.

Parallel 18 “Pre18 Gen.2” event, July 2019

While on vacation in Puerto Rico this summer, I attended “Pre18 Gen.2,” an event organized by startup accelerator program Parallel 18, in which startup teams joining the program pitched their business concepts for the first time.

I felt excited as I noticed a pattern of sustainable startups sharing their stories of how they had found inspiration with the passing of category 4 Hurricane Maria on September 2017 and how they proposed to contribute to resolve current problems the island is facing.

Here are the highlights of 4 of such startups:

Pick Up Waste. Collecting and disposing of debris became an issue after the destruction caused by the hurricane. Affected by the ongoing financial crisis, Puerto Rico municipalities struggled to collect the debris. Some established fees for the service, others reduced how frequently they collect debris. Informal service providers surfaced, but then, the question became are they disposing the debris responsibly and appropriately? Pick Up Waste has found that millennial customers want to be assured of such. The startup built an app through which citizens can schedule debris pick-up from certified service providers who will dispose of the waste appropriately.

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Huerto Rico. Huerto Rico makes a play on words on “Puerto Rico.” “Huerto” is the Spanish word for edible garden. The startup was founded by Sebastián Sagardía, who worked in restaurants in Puerto Rico, Boston, and Madrid prior to pivoting into advertising. After hurricane Maria, when Puerto Rico’s food supply chain was severely disrupted, he felt inspired to do something: “If my country has no food, what am I doing producing advertisements? I need to be producing food.” The supply chain disruption had shown the weakness of depending on imports for 85% of the food consumed on the island. He started cultivating mushrooms at home and has found a niche in producing gourmet mushrooms for fine dining restaurants who are excited to source new, local produce. Follow on Instagram @huertoricoPR

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Prento Farms. Prento Farms responds to the need for higher protein food for poultry. The team has found a native Puerto Rico insect whose larvae provide 31% of the protein that poultry needs. Insects are the natural diet of hens, so they love it, and it’s also more nutritious than the fiber-rich food farmers traditionally fed hens. The team has noticed that the egg quality of the hens who are on this high-protein diet increases as well. Agronomy students from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez campus, are assisting the startup with research and development. Follow on Instagram and Facebook @prentofarms or get in touch via prentofarms@gmail.com

Prento Farms logo

Trito Agro. Building on Japanese composting product bokashi, Trito Agro has developed the product bori-kachi, composed of microorganisms which activate the fermentation process in compost material. The microorganisms feed from the compost material, breaking it down in the process. The company also collects organic material from cafeterias, restaurants and residences, composts the material, and uses the compost in a farm in which it produces vegetables.

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Trito Agro hopes to contribute towards the problem of landfills in Puerto Rico. In March 2019, a local newspaper reported that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had released an estimate that local landfills had only 2-4 years remaining of utility. Learn more about Trito Agro at https://www.taispr.com/

I hope I’ve been able to share with you the excitement of seeing these startups sprout and grow! I encourage you to support these startups by liking and sharing this article and leaving your comment below.

About the author: Carmen L Bonilla is passionate about sustainability and how business can make a positive impact on the current problem areas in our world. As Assistant Professor for Rutgers Business School, she engages her students to learn about businesses that are making a difference in the world through their sustainability practices and innovation. As a consultant, she is available to assist companies who are interested in engaging in a cultural transformation towards sustainability. Contact: hi@carmenbonilla.com

4 Sustainable Startups Making Progress After Hurricane Maria