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Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Brazil

  • Definition
    Devising project idea, defining the aim and main components
  • Design
    Specifying details such as time-frame, budget, target indicators, project partners and relevant steps to reach the project objectives
  • Financing
    Searching and securing funding and investment, setting up relevant financing partnerships, and discussing payment modalities
  • Implementation
    Execution of feasibility studies, context analysis, plot design, planting and setting up facilities and starting with potential capacity-building
  • Maintenance
    Operational phase (monitoring and evaluation, impact assessments and adjustments, execution of educational programmes and long-term capacity building)
  • Scaling Up
    Scaling up phase is when the project it has already shown success by obtaining impact as well as economic results and it's ready to become replicable.

This project incorporates a collaboration between reNature and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and will set an inspiring example of a regenerative, local, and circular food systems in line with the Foundations’ Food Initiative.

São Paulo’s upper-class restaurants and supermarkets will be connected to local farmers who will implement diverse, regenerative farming systems with a focus on specialised commodities. The restaurants and supermarkets will receive local, fresh produce, whilst returning food wastes to the farms in form of compost.

While the Ellen MacArthur Foundation is specialised in creating circular business opportunities, reNature will utilise its expertise to develop versatile farming systems satisfying the needs of all stakeholders as well as establish the relevant connections.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation Food Initiative.

Tackling urban food waste

Current urban food systems in Brazil, as well as many other locations, are linked to a number of detrimental impacts for the environment and societies. Especially in larger cities like São Paulo, fresh locally grown food is often sparse, transporting distances are large, and the tremendous waste of food in households and restaurants contributes to climate change.

The city is surrounded by a so-called green belt characterised by farming activities and a large source of freshwater. It currently prevents the expansion of the city and, therefore, ensures the availability of clean water. However, farms are increasingly terminated due to a lack of economic perspectives making way for the spread of slum-like settlements. A new solution is needed to tackle food waste while providing opportunities for farmers.

Three ambitions of the Food Initiative – achieving these three ambitions in 20+ cities could generate annual benefits worth USD 2.7 trillion by 2050 (Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation).

Linking local farms to restaurants and supermarkets

The first step will be to link farmers from the Parelheiros region willing to implement regenerative farming techniques in cooperation with the restaurants and supermarkets. Secondly, a number of model farms will be established showcasing versatile systems for the farmers to learn and choose from. These will be aligned with the commodity demands of the restaurants and supermarkets as well as the preferences of farmers. The systems will incorporate multiple layers enabling flexible combinations of different crops.

The objective is to create a localised, circular business model bridging hospitality and food waste from restaurants with farms whilst regenerating farmland and supporting farmer livelihoods.

Parelheiros, a district as well as a larger subprefecture of the city of São Paulo (Source: iBeac).

Inspiring circular urban food systems

Once matured, this project will showcase in an innovative and inspirational fashion that urban regenerative and circular food systems, including holistic waste management, are possible. It will serve as an example for other restaurants as well as farmers whilst encouraging new ways of waste management. Given the similarity of food waste-related problems in cities all over the world similar approaches could be replicated globally.

Instead of littering our streets, waste – and food and other organic wastes in particular – could be of great worth, given we harness its value by closing the loops in our (peri-)urban food systems.

Economic incentives that benefit city and environment

Establishing a mechanism that incentivises farmers in the area to stay and convert to regenerative practices will prevent urban expansion whilst improving the environmental performance of farms. Through improved soil quality the water influx into the city will be stabilised. 

Further, the new systems will benefit biodiversity and the climate. Cutting away emissions from food waste by turning it into compost and returning it into the soil will drastically reduce the footprint of restaurants.

The project will provide farmers sustainable livelihood opportunities as well as increased food security for their communities. The availability of clean water will be enhanced despite the increasing severity of dry seasons whilst the risk for hazards such as floods and droughts will be reduced.

In São Paulo, fresh locally grown food is sparse whilst food waste is abundant. This project transforms the food system by connecting the many upper-class restaurants and supermarkets to local farmers who will implement diverse, regenerative farming systems, with a focus on specialised commodities.

Supporting sustainable farm livelihoods

From an economic perspective, the main beneficiaries are the farmers. These will be granted with the opportunity to establish long-lasting business relationships with the restaurants as off-takers. Diversified farming systems will spread on-farm financial risks and regular provisions of compost will facilitate the cheap fertilisation of the soil. Reducing non-recycled food wastes will further benefit local authorities as the lifespan of local landfills will be extended. Lastly, sourcing locally whilst supporting regenerative practices will provide restaurants with CSR and marketing opportunities.


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