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My fascination for the bio based economy and the circular economy

I have a couple of fascinations. Ranging from the sweet smell of strawberries to new global systems like the circular economy, and in particular the Bio Based Economy. I’m trying to build a carrier in the latter since I have not figured out how to make a carrier in the former. I still try to get my weekly hit of strawberries though. 

I have an educational background in International Food and Agribusiness were we looked at global food production systems. My fascination for the Bio based Economy started emerging since one immediately sees the flaws in the current system and (I dislike to use the word) you notice how unsustainable it really is in the long run. Partially unconscious, my interest to start a food company like Pulve started to grow as well during that time. As a response to the unsustainable food practises. (that’s twice, shame on me) 

I won’t go into the nitty gritty of what the circular economy exactly is. People like Ellen Macarthur can explain this by length. Please visit the site: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy for quality and accessible info. In my personal opinion, the circular economy is probably the better version of the system that we currently operate today. And as such, the circular economy should be implemented asap. But again, I spent 4 years on the subject matter so there might be a bit of a sunk Cost Fallacy. Do your own research and try to formulate an opinion.

Food and the circular economy

All over the world, businesses, governments and enthusiasts are trying to figure out how food production can be combined in a circular economy. The Dutch government, which I will use as an example, is focusing on 3 main pillars. 

  • Optimising resource management

One of the challenges is to implement an overall resource management system that can safeguard our need for food, energy and materials. Remember, our agricultural system provides much more that just ‘plain Ol’ food’. Our current system is ineffective since it currently leads to soil degradation, food waste etc. We need a management system that takes every variable in consideration.

  • Avoid food waste

Around 30% of the food that we produce is wasted in various stages in the supply chain from production, storage, shipment, retail and households. We also eat more processed food and ready-to-eat meals which causes more food waste. An important point, and it can’t be said too often, we just eat too much shit. It still boggles my mind. Food waste puts a lot of pressure on the environment. And think of all the man hours, transportation, packaging and resources that are not being utilised.

  • Stimulate high end use of waste streams

Creating a system in which there is no (food) waste will be difficult. Although the very definition of waste is changing. Reusing waste streams, the most effective manner is called valorisation. Currently, we use waste streams for the feed industry or ferment it in order to generate energy. The latter is a very ineffective application since the efficiency is low. Waste streams should be applied to obtain the highest value. We currently see examples in the packaging industry were agricultural waste streams are being used for packaging applications. Our current bio-degradable package is one of those examples.

If you look at these 3 pillars, interestingly total meal replacement powders like Pulve and other brands fit reasonably well in the circular economy framework. Especially aspects like the long expiry date, low carbon foot print of vegan products, production management systems, tailor made meals which reduce the amount of waste and certain food production systems that do not compete with agricultural land. The use of algae is a good example.

I think a quality question that we should ask ourselves is:

Out of all the options we have, all the technology we can apply and all the knowledge we have on the top of our fingertips, is our current or future system the one we should adopt. And why?

Of course this is an extreme question with a lot of variables that involve a lot of people with different backgrounds and motives. Challenges like this for the human species can be depressing or uplifting depending on your position.

I think we can conclude that very interesting times are coming with a lot of opportunities.

Enjoy the ride ;)

Ruud - Co-Founder

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