Barn owls are proving to be key to modern, sustainable agriculture

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SOUTH BAY, Fla. — If you buy organic sugar or rice anywhere in the United States, there’s a good chance it was grown on Florida Crystals’ expansive farmland near South Bay, Florida.

According to the company, the farms are also home to the world’s largest private network of barn owls.

“I see it every day. I see the owls at work,” said farmer Daniel Cavazos, director of rice and organic farming at Florida Crystals. “We use nature to control nature,” he said.

About 1,000 North American barn owls hunt rodents on the organic farmland to keep them from devouring the crops.

“You can eat,” said Diego Luzuriaga, vice president of research and development at Florida Crystals. He helped grow the barn owl program.

“Some of the small birds can eat two or three rats a night,” Luzuriaga added. “They can eat twice their weight. You are amazing. As a result of the program, which we have continued to expand over the years, we have eliminated the use of synthetic pesticides.”

Luzuriaga said his team has not used rodent control chemicals on their approximately 195,000 acres of organic and conventional farmland for several years.

“It goes back to basics. We imitate nature. Farming is about finding balance in our ecosystem,” said Luzuriaga.

The barn owl program is a key factor in Florida Crystals becoming the first farm in Florida to be certified by the Regenerative Organic Alliance.

“By doing things sustainably and naturally, we can guarantee that your children and my children can do the same for generations to come,” Cavazos said.

Florida Crystals plans to double its barn owl network to about 2,000 owls by the end of 2022.

According to the company, they are also working to replace traditional fertilizers with composted materials to reduce chemical use.

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