Puerto Rico has been home to a thriving biotechnology industry for a decade. Major pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, Merck and Abbott have located plants and research facilities here as well as U.S. agrochemical companies like BASF and Monsanto.

And now the Puerto Rican government is supporting the growth of the agricultural biotechnology with incentives like subsidies for worker wages and the use of existing facilities. It also offers low tax rates to businesses, especially for research and development work.

The favorable business climate is working. Monsanto, for example, plans to complete at new 20,000-sq.-ft. facility in August. Juan Santiago, Monsanto station manager, said the new facility will be used mainly for breeding. Currently, the company has two sites with a total of 2,500 acres for corn, soybean and cotton research and nursery growth. Monsanto has operated facilities on the island since 1984.

Of course, the biotechnology industry needs well-trained workers and the universities and schools have gotten involved in this, according to James Perez-Marcano with the Puerto Rico Department of Economic Development and Commerce (PRIDCO). He says educational programs and college degrees target the needs of this industry and have produced a well-trained workforce for the biotech industry. 

The focus is now on ag biotechnology. One example is the Pontifical Catholic University in Puerto Rico where a new Biotechnology and Agrobiotechnology Research and Learning Center just opened. The center will help educate a new generation of island professionals in the agricultural biotech business.