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Contxto – Boricua startup PRatian recently received US$200,000 worth of equity-free government funds to continue developing its agro-solution. Funds will go towards extending the staff as well as increasing R&D, according to the company in a recent correspondence.
Born in Puerto Rico but aiming at Mars, according to its Facebook description, PRatian is an aerospace startup. Rather than developing lunar settlements like its fellow Boricua cousin Instarz, it’s solving issues in the agro-industry.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) provided financial support to PRatian, which has been bootstrapping. This was in conjunction with Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust.
“It is the first time an agricultural company from Puerto Rico has won these funds in over 20 years,” said Karelyn Cruz. She leads the SBIR’s National Natural Resources Conservation Program in the Environmental Systems Division.
PRatian developed AgroBeads, an intelligent irrigation system that optimizes as well as maximizes Earth’s resources. The product is a biodegradable sphere that contains water in addition to nutrients for nascent and growing plants. This way, it reduces the need for watering.
In the short-term, the company intends to grow the AgroBeads membrane to reach a capacity capable of growing crops with long life cycles. For example, these include trees and other perennials. Longer-term, PRatians wants to become the first aerospace research center in the Caribbean.
Currently, the company is exporting the product to the mainland United States under a B2B model. With innovative technology using “slow-release” techniques, users simply need to add soil with an even 1-to1 ratio alongside the AgroBeads. Additionally, it is providing licensing to the system in China.
Much of the technology revolves around dual functionality that reduces not just high levels of pH in alkaline soil but also the need for constant irrigation. According to the company, the project began in aerospace facilities in Poland under the premise of achieving agriculture in extreme environments, like Mars.
Behind this creation are brothers Axel and Marcel García. Not only are these two co-founders of the firm but also whizzes in their respective fields. Axel, an aerospace engineer, and Marcel, a lawyer, believe this new capital is a “powerful advance in the growth of their emerging enterprise.”
“We believe in the impact behind this technology,” said Marcel. “We’re going to work hard to maximize it.”