NAME OF BEST PRACTICE:
Bio&Co – Social Enterprise producing organic vegetables and reducing waste trough compost
Contact: Raluca Ouriaghli – Manager Bio&co
Tel./Fax +40 314 259 010
Ateliere Fara Frontiere
44°41’36.2″N 25°57’48.0″E, Ciocanari, Dambovita
WHEN: since 2015
WASTE MANAGEMENT HIERARCHY: preparing for reuse and recycling
TYPE OF INSTRUMENT: Education, information, awareness raising & Voluntary/promotional
WASTE STREAMS: Food and organic waste
About: Bio&Co farm (one of the projects initiated by “Ateliere Fara Frontiere” Association) is a social enterprise which produces organic vegetables and reduces waste and pollution, by collecting food and organic waste and composting it, obtaining a fertilizer for organic farming. It was set up in 2015, in a village with just over 1400 inhabitants, located 40 km away from Bucharest. On an area of 4 hectares, 16 people from the region cultivate 80 types of vegetables, without pesticides and without mechanical processes. The farm is in the process of organic certification (the evaluation takes two years).
The vegetables produced by Bio&Co are sold to responsible consumers, through subscriptions. The basket content depends on the seasonal production plan and vegetables and is identical for all baskets delivered during a week. The vegetables are of great diversity; the basket may contain even other complementary products locally manufactured by local craftsmen (wooden spoons, honey etc.).
– Through this project, the association is fighting against exclusion, marginalization and discrimination of the most disadvantaged category of people, acting for their social and professional integration;
– Fight against food waste and pollution, act for responsible waste management and environmental protection;
– Promote solidarity and responsibility, in order to ensure a sustainable development.
Knowhow: Technical support ensured by Cocagne Network (Reseau Cocagne)
Budget: The funding is based mainly on donations, but also on responsible customers’ subscriptions for organic vegetables.
Material resources: the farm has a vegetable preparation room, greenhouses and containers (total cost was 250.000 EUR). Also, the farm has a composting platform for food and organic waste.
Human resources: 8 workers, 1 team leader, 1 insertion counselor, 1 insertion responsible, 1 volunteer expert in organic crops, 1 agronomist engineer and the manager.
20 new jobs created for vulnerable people (residents living below the poverty line, without jobs or income, some without access to water or electricity); employees were hired from local community and disadvantaged people from Bucharest, as recommended by the partner institutions and NGOs providing psycho-social services.
• 1 personalized socio-professional accompaniment, carried out by insertion specialists
• 4 hectares of agricultural land have been planted with organic vegetables
• 4.000 sqm. of solariums, for a production of 52 weeks/year
• 80 types of vegetables grown according to the principles of organic farming
• biodiversity preservation
• 160 users of subscribers and actively involved in supporting Bio&Co activity
• local distribution, directly to subscribers
• 1 food and organic waste composting platform of 1000 sqm.
• 1 pilot project for the collection of fruit and vegetable waste generated by retail industry
• 1 pilot project for reducing food waste and promoting food solidarity
• 1 educational farm (focused on healthy eating, biodiversity, food waste reduction, environmental protection) and sensory discovery for children
In 2016, Bio&Co employees and volunteers produced 900 baskets of vegetables, which were delivered to 83 subscribers. Also, in 2016, Bio&Co collected and processed 400 tons of food waste. Much of this was good food, which made the project initiators want to create a program for redirecting some of the products to disadvantaged people (1796 kg of vegetables were donated to poor families).
Urban metabolism relevance
a) The production of organic vegetables is completed by compost production. AFF association promotes the local production, but also collaborates with big retail companies. On a daily basis, 1000 kg of food scraps (fruits and vegetables still good for consumption) are taken from four Carrefour hypermarkets in Bucharest. After sorting and donating good food to partner social canteens, the remains are brought to Bio&Co farm. Other scraps brought to the farm are: coffee grounds, eggshells and tea bags, generated by four hotels from Accor Hotels. On a platform next to the vegetable hall, all of these remains are chopped and transformed into compost, natural fertilizer used for farm needs.
b) Through all activities carried out in Bio&Co project, the focus is to protect the environment and preserve biodiversity, ensure the soil, air and groundwater quality, by observing European and national rules regarding organic agriculture and integrating the principles of sustainable development.
c) The vegetables and fruits are produced locally, are fresh and of good quality and are distributed in short circuit directly to the consumers, without polluting by transport for hundreds or thousands of kilometers.
d) The project contributes to food waste prevention, greenhouse gas emissions reduction and diverting food waste from lanfilling; also is supporting organic farming and local producers. It also has an educational component by organizing meetings with children, organizations and other stakeholders interested in the importance of preventing waste generation and developing organic farming.
e) Bio&Co preserves natural resources, aims to zero waste generated, reduces pollution and waste by using as few packaging as possible and the ones they use are natural, reusable, recyclable and locally produced.
Engaged participatory processes
This project manages to bring together as many categories of stakeholders as: private organizations, associations, public authorities, disadvantaged people from the community and not only, employees, pupils etc. The project success is due to the active involvement of stakeholders from various fields: members of the „Ateliere fara frontiere” Association who make important efforts for the socio-professional insertion of disadvantaged people, to sponsors and partners who provide financial contributions, products or waste, associations engaged in distributing food in perfect condition to disadvantaged families (and thus saving them from landfills), representatives of local authorities and responsible consumers concerned with the consumption of organic food.
As a business model, it is based on subscriptions and donations, promoted within a large number of potential stakeholders (companies and their employees). Subscribers who want to actively support the Bio&Co can become consumer members, contributing with an annual subscription. A special engagement option of Bio&Co subscription is the opportunity to give up one’s weekly basket when leaving on vacation, to families from Bucharest that are living below the poverty line and for which the vegetables are inaccessible.
The subscription price for vegetables baskets is fixed, but production may vary depending on aspects specific to natural farming; the price allows an equitable remuneration to Bio&Co employees, as well as to small local producers who provide complementary products. In parallel, in partnership with the Mladita Association, school courses and fun and educational activities are offered to the children of the farm village. Solidarity baskets are offered to the poorest families.
The project focuses on fulfilling as many aspects as possible to ensure sustainable food production and to respect the principles of circular economy: food waste prevention, collecting and recycling, using recyclable packaging, donating surplus food, producing organic food using only natural fertilizers produced on their own, creating green jobs for disadvantaged people, developing awareness actions on the importance of the processes mentioned above. Therefore, we can say that the Bio & Co project is a successful example of an integrated system that not only manages to “close the loop” but focuses very much on prevention and education of its stakeholders
Sustainability and replicability
Considering that the Bio & Co project benefits from the support of significant industry stakeholders and international partners, it will definitely have a long-term safe development. Increased number of citizens subscribed to the products of the organization and interested in the consumption of bio foods shows that there is a great interest for this field and a long-term commitment from the clients. Also, so far, produced compost is used only by the farm, but given the impressive amounts of waste generated by the retail and HoReCa, project initiators have proposed to sell it soon. In this respect, they hope to be able to access funding to expand composting activity and produce compost for other farmers. They are trying to promote a sustainable, environmentally friendly model that can be adopted by others, as well.
Bio&Co respects the natural cycle of plants, does not use chemicals and does not force the growth of vegetables and fruits. They try to work with local varieties, adapted to the soil and climate specificity. This model can be adapted to other countries as well, if observing these principles. It can be easily replicated by small or large communities at relatively low costs because the operating principle is quite simple.
A successful factor in Bio&Co activity is that they have built a food solidarity program for needy and underprivileged families, in addition to the fact that they promote a balanced and healthy diet for everyone.
Bio&Co started the production in 2016, after a year of planting. They lost more crops, because they did not have extended experience.
Even adopted in 2016, the Food Waste law is not yet in force in Romania (due to the postponement of its applicability and lack of methodological norms). The problem is that this law is not but should be correlated with the waste pyramid and waste framework legislation