The 2023 Ellen MacArthur Foundation got us thinking about circularity in food production – here are five of our favourite farming and food innovations
Last week, Springwise attended the 2023 Ellen MacArthur Foundation Summit – the Foundation’s flagship event bringing together stakeholders to accelerate the transition to a circular economy.
When we think of circularity – the idea that resources and products should be renewed and regenerated rather than wasted – we often jump straight to issues such as plastic packaging or textile waste. But, as the Summit made clear, it also applies to food production.
We may not think about it, but our food is designed just like any other product. Someone, somewhere has made decisions about how our food tastes, what it looks like, what ingredients it’s made of, and how it’s packaged. Circularity in food, therefore, means making more sustainable decisions about food products so that they have a positive, rather than destructive, impact on the planet.
To provide further guidance, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has published its circular design principles for food, which consist of four design opportunities: using a more diverse range of ingredients, swapping in ingredients that have a lower environmental impact, upcycling food byproducts into new ingredients, and producing ingredients in a regenerative way that boosts the health of soils and ecosystems.
The session last week highlighted the example of Natoora, a food-sourcing and wholesaling business putting the principles of circular food design into action. By sourcing for flavour, the company is hoping to have a ‘trickle down’ effect on the food system as flavour, it argues, is an indicator that a product has been grown in a responsible fashion, rather than purely for yield or profit. Natoora also embodies the principle of ingredient diversity. For example, its tomato soup is made of different varieties of tomato depending on the season, using less well-known ‘winter tomatoes’ in the colder months.
The ideas presented at the summit got us thinking about the food solutions we see at Springwise every week, and how they share similar principles. Here are five of our favourites.
Video source: RE:TV
Agriculture finds itself at a crucial intersection. It is one of the most vulnerable sectors to the impacts of climate change and yet it is one of the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Thankfully, there is a solution already being implemented. Well-integrated and diverse agroecological systems can promote greater carbon sequestration because the methods used actually increase soil health. They also bolster resilience in terms of livelihoods and natural ecosystems thanks to a more interconnected approach between plants, animals, humans, and the environment. This regenerative style of farming does away with the over-use of heavy machinery, eliminates the introduction of chemicals entirely, and considers more diverse ways of both generating revenue and contributing to the health of the surrounding landscape. George Young aka Farming George, the owner of a zero-tillage, zero-insecticide, arable and livestock farm in Fobbing, South East England is putting these principles into practice. Read more
Photo source Seawater Solutions
Climate change is leading to increasing scarcity of fresh water – just as food production needs to increase. Against this backdrop, Scottish company Seawater Solutions has developed a novel approach to growing more food with less water, specialising in using seawater to grow salt-tolerant crops. The company takes flood-affected or degraded farmland and turns it into an artificial saltmarsh ecosystem by pumping seawater over the area. Farmers then use the flooded land to grow crops, called halophytes, that thrive in waters with a high percentage of salt. Examples of halophytes include samphire, mangrove, and Salicornia. In addition to tackling water scarcity, these crops provide protection against erosion, not to mention carbon sequestration – the plants absorb 30 times more carbon than rainforests. Read more
Photo source Timothy Dykes on Unsplash
Growth in interest in plant-based foods and meat replacements is driving an increase in the global mushroom market. Now, for businesses in the hospitality and grocery industries, a New York-based food technology company has created a means of transforming in-house waste into a useful input for sustainable mushroom production. Peat upcycles food waste from restaurants, grocery stores, and distributors using a hyperlocal, zero-emissions transport model. Drop-off points are open to the public as well as businesses, and provide companies with a way to reduce their waste management costs. Peat uses a zero-emissions, electric cargo bike to transport waste from drop-off points to the mushroom farming facility, and again to deliver the harvested mushrooms back to food establishments, who can purchase the mushrooms generated by their waste from Peat at a lower cost. Read more
Photo source Climate Farmers
If the world’s soils stored even 0.4 per cent more carbon every year, it could offset all human-related CO2 emissions. The best way to achieve that change is through regenerative agriculture, a natural way of growing that improves depleted soils, helps to store carbon, and supports biodiversity. Helping to make widespread regenerative agriculture a reality is German-based agtech company Climate Farmers. The organisation provides direct financial support to farmers based on how much carbon they sequester through improved growing and land management methods. Climate Farmers’ goal is to scale regenerative agriculture across Europe. Putting healthier growing practices into place results in higher yields, increased profits, and more water retained in the ground. Read more
Photo source Roman Synkevych on Unsplash
After decades of the intensification of farming, and the ensuing harm it has caused to environments, growers and policymakers are beginning to more seriously consider regenerative farming as the means of achieving a carbon-neutral future. The challenge is the slow pace of change. Regenerative agriculture must scale more quickly in order to cover 40 per cent of global cropland by 2030. Changing soil health can take years, so French agrobiotechnology company Gaïago has created a suite of products designed to help growers make faster improvements to their land. Read more
Written By: Matthew Hempstead
20th June 2023