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They’ve created a chain that connects local community and local producers, establishing partnerships with education institutions and local companies. By stimulating awareness in overcoming environmental challenges, they’ve built a sustainable process, one that promotes preservation, ecologic education and healthy habits.
Aguapé is situated in Monte Mor, a 60,000 inhabitant’s city near São Paulo, where the conventional monoculture farming prevails.
The innovative idea came up from Athila Cyrino (33) and Raisa Dornelas (28), both holding bachelors degrees in Business Administration. They have been studying and producing food on organic farming, hydroponics, syntrophic agriculture and are now exploring aquaponics.
Their innovation emerged from the discontent and indignation about the outrageous way the agribusiness is endangering land, water, air and life on Earth, especially due to its extension and impact in Brazil, where deforestation and indiscriminate agro-toxic usage are only increasing. Surprised by the irresponsibility from most companies concerning world’s sustainability, they left their industry’s career to start this mission in 2015.
They believe that by using intelligent and innovative farming techniques while building a chain to share information, they can strengthen small-scale farmers and disseminate agro ecology. Until now, a diverse set of courses have been held in the area: Hydroponics, Basic Sanitation, Civil Construction, Hydraulics, Organic Agriculture and Rural Tourism. Apart from that, they’ve installed septic tanks and a worm farm, which will be used to handle the organic waste, turning it into organic matter. And lastly, they also point out their social engagement: weekly supply of organic food for the city’s elderly care home, elementary/middle school’s visitations and lectures, activism on sustainability and preservation of local inheritance.
The idea was gradually formed by gathering scientific information on current agriculture businesses. The studies have shown substantial evidence of severe threats to public health and irreversible damage to the environment and the ecosystem of the Earth. Since 2008, Brazil has been the largest global consumer of pesticides and has become the main destination for agro-toxic products banned worldwide.
By 2015, they took a 10,000 m² non-productive heritage area. They felt responsible for putting it to good use, growing healthy food for themselves and their relatives, building a business out of the surplus. Their motto then became, “when you can’t buy yourself clean food, you must grow your own”.
By collecting information from people in the same type of business and studying the needs of local community, they realized most people lack information about the alarming threat that conventional agriculture poses, especially in Brazil. As a result, most people are unaware of alternative ways to overcome the challenges when growing food or farming.
They’ve combine strengths willing to fill the gap in their community, as the first chemical-defensive free food growers in the area. The new lifestyle and business structure encompass the sustainable development as they were driven to the production of safe and clean food. The ultimate goal is to demonstrate that it’s possible to produce without chemical pesticides and to engage others to do the same. With their overall concern about social and sustainable development, they prioritize their actions over profit.
Considering all initiatives, the sustainable development goals tackled are:
• Goal 2 Zero Hunger:
o Ensuring access to safe and nutritious food to the community
o Raising agricultural productivity and income, as well as of the small-scale food producers they support
o Implementation of resilient practices that maintain ecosystems
• Goal 6 Clean Water and Sanitation:
o Reducing pollution by eliminating the release of hazardous chemicals and materials
o Treating the household wastewater through septic tanks
o Realizing courses about Basic sanitation
• Goal 12 Responsible Consumption & Production:
o Management of all wastes, mitigating their release to air, water, and soil, minimizing the impacts on human health and the environment
o Realizing courses about different aspects related to sustainable development
• Goal 15 Life on Land:
o Protecting the extinction of native trees and bees (Brazil has exclusively over 300 species of stingless bees that are crucial for its flora pollination)
• Goal 17 Partnership for the Goals:
o Promoting the diffusion of environmentally sound technologies
o Sharing knowledge and expertise
o Partnership with National Service of Rural Learning (SENAR)
Among the short-term effects, efficiency and quality are the most notable features. The conservation and innovations in the area, such as planting edible and ornamental plants (including native trees), gives the place its own identity while preserving and extending the natural environment. Long effects are the continuous increase of interested people from the community (consumers and visitors) and the improved viability of the environment, plants, animals and human beings.
From a piece of land of a non-productive area, they managed to create a successful business with different initiatives that connects hundreds of people in their community. The initial idea was to build a hydroponic greenhouse. Due to all difficulties they went through, they got in contact with different people and organizations, breaking new grounds and opportunities for their business. They created a 3-month internship program for students who want to learn ecological processes and gave work and housing opportunity to people on vulnerable situations.
In less than one year, they developed the organic growth in soil as well. At least twenty-five different products are being already produced in the area without the usage of chemical pesticides. Vegetables produced include: beets, zucchini, carrot, onion, leek, jelly. The spices include basil, parsley, chive, peppers, and also teas as mint, fennel, boldo and plantago major. Besides that, there are currently seven bee hives producing sustainable honey in the area. There is also a chicken yard established near the crops to provide a natural balance of pest control, harvest waste and egg production. Besides that, their families are now eating healthier than before and people all around the city are interested on helping out the business. The revenue is enough to maintain it operational and to keep investing.
The business model is being well accepted as people become more informed about health risks by ingestion of contaminated food and the damage these chemicals pose to the ecosystem. Their costumers are welcome to know each and every part of the production process, while are briefed about the business purpose.
By raising awareness in the surrounding community, the business effectively benefits the environment as well. Over 100 people were involved in different rural courses held in the property so far. They are also engaged in the preservation and conservation of biodiversity. Over 40 different species (birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians) have been cataloged in the area by the time of this work. Trees have also been planted as carbon footprint compensation.
They’ve created a membership card for children under 13 with elaborated missions promoting human conscience and environmental awareness.
Some of their quotes:
“Antimicrobial Resistance is what scares us most. It’s a worrying phenomenon that can be well observed in agriculture, animal breeding, and hospital patients, exclusively due to the indiscriminate use of antimicrobials.”
“It’s the grown-up’s responsibilities to know what’s good to eat, especially nowadays. The most vulnerable ones are the elderly, above all those who are condemned into a rest home (they have no choice on what to eat). Secondly are the infants and the young.”
“Although agriculture is one of the principal bases of Brazil's economy, the subject is not contemplated in its educational system. Therefore, small producers must know their role and stand up against agribusiness practices.”
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Athila Cyrino, Owner
Raisa Dornelas, Owner
Aguapé is an urban farm that produces a variety of organic and hydroponic vegetables, as well as honey and eggs. Their production is 100% free of any chemical pesticides and uses effective irrigation techniques. Apart from promoting sustainable agriculture, they also engage the community in urban areas with social projects, promoting environmental conservation and supporting local producers; a partnership with the National Service of Rural Learning (SENAR) has also been established.