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Replicating SiembraViva’s Successful Organic Village Model

Revolutionize the way people consume fruits and vegetables in Bogota by transforming the traditional work undertaken by small holder farmers

Photo of Diego Benitez
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

SiembraViva SAS

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Grassroots Organization: SV is looking at a partnership with an organization of farmers located in Subachoque, (a municipality close to Bogotá). SV wants to partner with them to jointly develop its harvesting model to supply the city of Bogotá. They have shown great interest in being part of the project Restaurants: At present, SV has a relationship with one of the largest restaurant chains in Bogota: Crepes and Waffles. SV has had conversations with different restaurants chains in Bogota, which have shown interest in developing different commercial alliances Healthy Food Retailers: SV has had conversations with different healthy retail food chains in Bogota which are interested in having the SV’s products in their stores. SV has also developed a relationship with one of the largest retail chains in Bogota: Grupo Exito Financial institution: SV has developed an alliance with Agricapital a financial institution that provides financial support to farmers working directly with SV

Website of Legally Registered Entity

https://siembraviva.com/home/quienes-somos/

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Medellín

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Colombia

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

The city of Bogotá, which is the capital city of Colombia and has a total area 1775 km2.

What country is your selected Place located in?

Colombia

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Diego grew up in Medellín, the second largest city in Colombia. He worked for the largest Colombian bank for over 9 years, holding different positions. In the midst of his successful career, he had the opportunity to visit different strawberry crops located in the outskirts of the city. In this visit, he was able to see an unusual fact which was that farmers did not want to consume their own production due to the amount of chemicals (pesticides, fungicides and herbicides) that they used during the harvest. This led him to reflect on the type of unhealthy food that his (and other) families were consuming and motived him to develop a deeper understanding of the vegetables food system and value chain, around big cities.

After talking with farmers and undertaking some research on the relationships between the different stakeholders in the vegetables value chain, Diego decided to establish SiembraViva (SV). Since inception SV has been transforming the lives of the SHFs of fruits and vegetables by training them in organic farming and connecting them directly with the final customers. Its value proposition offers to their B2B and B2C customers a high level of convenience and high-quality products, which includes: Fresh, organic and ready-to-eat products which are harvested by local small holder farmers ("SHF").

SV’s operations so far have been limited to the city of Medellin where the company was established. However, they constantly receive requests from different companies and and individuals in Bogotá interested in acquiring organic, healthy products grown by local farmers. 

Bogota is the largest and most important market in Colombia. With more than 7 million people, the city constantly faces food challenges such as highly intermediated  value chains; increasing levels of waste;  scant supply of healthy products and large dependence on conventional agriculture. For this reason, Diego envisions bringing his company's unique value proposition to consumers in Bogotá.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Close your eyes and imagine being on the top of a mountain, the cold wind embraces you, and the height takes away your breath. In front of you is a vast plain full of streets, high and low buildings, a small architectural model that extends from side to side, from east to west, from north to south. That is what you would see from the "Cerro de Monserrate", the highest point in the city of Bogotá (3152 m), and from where we can all see the immensity of the capital of Colombia.

Its Inhabitants

Bogotá has more than 7 million inhabitants, being the largest and most populated city in Colombia, 15% of the country's total population lives there. It is the cultural, economic, and political center which making it attractive for investors and businesses. It also has been the historically center of internal migration mobilizations and where job opportunities and better incomes are sought

Bogotá is divided into 20 locations, of which only 1 of them is considered rural: Sumapaz, located near the largest paramo in the world. It is ~ 2,600 meters above the sea level, and its average temperature is 14.5 degrees Celsius, making it a cold city for a country without seasons. The closest to the snow that an inhabitant of Bogotá will see is hail in times of rain, something that has now been happening more frequently and with more strength

The noise, traffic and rush are somethings that those who arrive from other parts of Colombia will immediately notice. The Cars and ambulances horns that travel at all hours through the streets, and the time it takes to get around the city, make it an overwhelming city. 

Its citizens live in a hurry, preparing their children for school and making breakfast before the sun rises. They have to cross the city from one end to another, by bicycle in sections of the 344 km of cycle lanes throughout the city, in buses, in cars or in Transmilenio, the public transport system 

The Food

Bogotá has a wide range gastronomic offer. The most recognized restaurants are established in Bogotá, the national food chains have restaurants all throughout the city, only in 2017, 50.643 new restaurants were opened. On the other hand, a high percentage of the population, especially those who belong to the middle class prefer to consume homemade food, as a way of saving and guaranteeing a proper diet, and although “Bogotanos” do not consume much fast food, the food is far from being balanced. Dishes with fried food, potatoes, rice and plantain are the common denominator on the daily basis, and many do not know that there are organic products, and those who know about it think that they cannot afford it or that it is very difficult to find this type of products

Life in Bogotá is chaotic but interesting, is a mixture of everything, smells, flavors, people, and cultures. Bogotá is where every business deserves to be, Bogotá is a place for growing, where everything gets better known. Bogota is the city of opportunities

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

1775

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

7400000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

The inequality between rural and urban areas is one of the biggest historical problems in Colombia. Two of the main reasons behind this disparity are the high concentration of access and control over land, and the limited distribution of the benefits of land use. 

The high concentration of land property has limited employability in rural areas and has perpetuated the cycle of poverty. In Colombia, 82% of the productive land is controlled by 10% of landholders; 68% of the farms have 5 hectares (at most) and approximately 800.000 farmers do not own the land where they work in.

Despite government interventions, international aid agencies and the private sector, sustainable rural development is still being a challenge. SHF have to face different issues as:

-High market fluctuations: SHF are subject to daily market fluctuations, however their cost structure does not change with market prices. 

-Lack of market access: The low volumes of products make it difficult to find an efficient way to commercialize their goods.

-Lack of technical assistance (TA): SHF have been learning by doing, there are no standard production practices in the sector.

-Difficulties in access to capital: Most of the SHF do not have the collateral needed to enter in the formal financial system making it difficult to invest in their crops.

-Highly intermediated chains: the commercialization of agricultural products is characterized by a long chain of intermediation with numerous agents.

-High exposure to adverse climate conditions, climate variability and climate change.

Moreover, rural areas and their main economic activities are the cause of more than 24% of total greenhouse gas emissions and are ranked among the top three of the main causes of climate change- 

Conventional agriculture represents 99% of the total productive land Colombia and is directly related to:

-The expansion of the agri-boundaries, which produce high levels of deforestation, thereby fostering pests and diseases. 

-The high use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides which rely on fossil fuels

-The high pollution of waterways and erosion of the soil due to monocropping, extensive livestock farming and use of constant use of chemicals

-Traditional agriculture value chains have a high waste of product. The waste ranges from 22% to 55% (Waste of fruits and vegetables is 55%)

In addition, the increasing population in Bogota require that the food system responds to its demand which implies a huge pressure and risk for farmers. In order to respond to this, agriculture around Bogota has been monoculture and conventional farming which has several negative environmental implications. Also, the offer that conventional farming is not able to supply, is usually imported. Despite this approach, the Company intends to aim to supply the volumes required, moving away from the system thereby being more sustainable and offer a healthy option for customers in Bogota.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

To overcome these challenges, SV aims to develop an Organic Village Model (“OVM”) close to Bogota which seeks to congregate the planting, post-harvest and TA activities. The OVM creates a unique value proposition which connects the SHF directly with the final customers in Bogota. Its value proposition offers to their customers in Bogota a high level of convenience and high-quality products that includes: Fresh, organic and ready-to-eat products which are harvested by local SHF. The OVM includes:

1. A post-harvest center where all production is washed, disinfected and processed in high quality products to sell it. This allows SV to penetrate high value-markets and offer to SHF:

  • A fair and stable price: SV sets prices over the market that don’t change throughout the year which double the price offering by intermediaries and wholesale market. This is possible by subtracting intermediaries in the value chain and developing high value products organic certificated.
  • A guaranteed volume purchased: The understanding of its customers’ requirements, allows SV to plan the harvest of each farmer to match its demand. This enables SV to guarantee the volume purchased of all of the farmer’s production.


These two factors give financial stability to SHFs, which is one of their biggest challenges.

2. Field School: SV has an extensive experience in managing organic farming crops. This knowledge has allowed SV to develop a technological package and effective support for SHF to develop organic farming.

Also, SV has its own demonstration crops to transfer their knowledge. The farmers graduated from the Field School could be SV’s suppliers or could undertake their own harvest. Also, SV is developing an app to support SHF more efficiently after their graduation.

3. Inputs and seedlings: SV uses production waste to develop bio inputs for planting. SV also creates different alliances to develop and buy organic seeds to ensure a clean and high-quality production. 

4. Land access: Many farmers in Colombia do not have access to land, so the OVM has the potential for building greenhouses where landless farmers can develop their crops. This promotes a cluster of organic producers where they can achieve different efficiencies all their requirements in one place.

5. Access to capital: SV has partnered with third parties to finance greenhouses for farmers. SV has the commitment to purchase all of the SHF’s production and deduct a percentage of the total sale to pay the greenhouse. The construction consists of 1200 m2 of greenhouse and open field harvest, which has drip irrigation and includes soil sensors, among other tech innovations.

The 5 fundamental elements pointed out above, make the value proposition of the Company unique to address the problems of inequality in rural areas, promote sustainable and organic agriculture. 

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

The impacts mentioned before, have a direct influence in the SHF economy by having a net income increase and stability and certainty about their future cash flow. These allow them to plan to save money and make strategic investments to improve their quality of life. Also, they have health benefits of working with organic crops, contrasting with the hazard of working in pesticide–ridden crops.

Also, SV will impact the lives of their customers in different ways:

  • Increase the consumption of vegetables:Through the high convenience of its products SV will overcome the barriers that customers in the cities have, leading them to not consume vegetables appropriately. It includes: 
  • Offering fresh and organic production: Products are delivered at a maximum at of 36 hours after harvested
  • Ready to eat products: SV has developed a portfolio of ready to eat products for B2B and B2C segments. It includes salad bases, different mixes, stir-fries and disinfected fruits and vegetables
  • Delivering: SV could deliver the order to its customers the day after its placed. 
  • Locally produced: SV ensures that there are locally produced 


The convenience of SV’s products respond to the busy lifestyle of people in Bogota who are looking for fast and healthy food options.

  • Healthy and sustainable offer: In Bogota there are few alternatives of healthy, convenient and sustainable choice of fruits and vegetables. SV’s offer is aligned with new consumers purchases decisions which are motivated on their general wellbeing. There is also a growing movement for having a minimum environment impact with their consumption trends
  • Waste: SV’s ready-to-eat and precut vegetables decrease the waste of product of B2B segment which are optimizing time and resources in their operations
  • Farming awareness: The OVM is a perfect place to develop activities to promote awareness of organic farming, the role of the SHF and the difference with conventional farming. SV will bring SHFs' experience closer to the customers

 

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

SiembraViva’s vision as a company is to revolutionize the way in which people consume fruits and vegetables by transforming the traditional way of working with SHFs around big cities, such as Bogota or Medellin. In order to do so, SiembraViva has learned that they need to articulate, support and involve different stakeholders along the value chain to create awareness of the challenges within the food system and concentrate efforts to establish a systemic change. Since it was established in 2013, SiembraViva has been working to develop a value proposition that integrates customer requirements and solves SHFs challenges integrating third parties as NGOs and financial institutions.  In order to properly articulate this model SiembraViva is looking for:             

  • Making agriculture an attractive economic activity for farmers by mitigating their  technical risks through the use of technology (Greenhouse, drip irrigation, technical assistance support, planting schedule) and guaranteeing the profitability of their activity (stable prices and volumes purchased for all of their production) so that they can improve their quality of life. 


This is possible because the company understands the market’s requirements and responds to its growing demand for healthy and convenient products, of which offer is very limited. Meaning that SiembraViva matches the supply and the demand, avoiding high intermediation and high waste of products. Additionally, it adds value to their products to guarantee healthy margins and the sustainability of the model.

  • SiembraViva also wants to ensure that future rural generations can find attractive economic opportunities in their communities and decide to keep working on agricultural activities and stop migrating to cities.


Developing organic products with added value that impact directly the health of consumers and farmers due to the fact that they don’t use any chemicals during the harvesting. Additionally, these products have more vitamins and minerals than conventional products.

Generating positive environmental impacts for the organic production which increased amount of CO2 fixed in the soil, decreased soil erosion and pollution of water sources. Moreover, this type of production has better yields per hectare which prevents the expansion of the agricultural frontier, helping to conserve forests and different types ecosystems.

Seeking through the OVM the development of a healthy portfolio of vegetables and fruits which currently is limited in Bogotá. Additionally, the OVM looks to promote a space where the people of the city have the option to observe and understand how this food system works. 

This space is key for people to understand the dynamics and challenges of this food system and develop awareness about it. It is expected that they gradually start valuing more agricultural activities and products harvested in a sustainable way, and also change their consumption habits.

  • Using an e-commerce platform to offer its products, complementary products, vegetable recipies and creating direct communication channels with the customers. SiembraViva is constantly mapping their customers’ requirements who day-to-day demand greater convenience in their products and services. 


This communication channel allows SiembraViva to understand the demand of products and adjust its value proposition to be aligned with customer’s requirements and market trends.

  • Demonstrating that there is a different way to work with SHFs, that it is financially sustainable and can be replicable in large and medium-sized cities in Colombia. This is possible if the efforts and the different stakeholders of the system are properly articulated.
     
  • Incorporating allies such as large retail chains, restaurants and financial institutions that understand and value the changes that SiembraViva is trying to make in the system and that see potential in developing commercial alliances.

 

  • Motivating the government and public entities to develop policies, support and invest in these business models as a means for the sustainable development of the field.

 

The SiembraViva proposal is an effective way of articulating and integrating the different actors that are part of this value chain, which understand the current and future challenges of the system and are willing to join forces to change the status quo.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website

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