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Liv Up: Scaling a Sustainable and Organic Food System through Technology and Planning

Our vision is to promote a sustainable food system, reducing waste and maximing added-value for every stakeholder through technology

Photo of Pedro Martins
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Liv Up

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Large company (over 50 employees)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

https://www.livup.com.br/nosso-cardapio

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

  • 1-3 years

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

São Paulo

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Brazil

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

Different organic farms across Brazil, mainly in the south-east area, as well as São Paulo main urban areas.

What country is your selected Place located in?

Brazil

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

It is the place where I was born and raised. 

It is also where I have been working at for the last 2 years, developing an organic food supply chain among with smallholder farmers. 

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.

The farmers have chosen to work with organic agriculture in order to enhance their quality life, preserve Brazil's ecossystem and to produce fresh and nutritious food.

70% of all organic producers come from small or family business. The orgnic food market is growing here, but still very stigmatized. People associated organic with expensive and small ingredients. But there are a growing awareness about the positive impact of this farmers work to health and to the environment. 

Besides, we relate to urban people that want to eat better, but have a conflict between the lack of time and the desire to eat well. In general, they have an active and busy lifestyle, but value day-to-day healthiness. It has a more conscious look at the food routine, physical exercises and body care. They are well informed and connected with news, so they value sustainable solutions, complex flavours, innovations and new formats of relations.

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

300000

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

Over the last century, the industrialization of food intensified, disconnecting people from real, natural and healthy food by introducing preserving agents, artificial flavors, hydrogenated fats and ultra-processed food. For every US$1 spent on food, society pays $2 in health, environmental and economic costs. (Ellen MacArthur Foundation). People want to eat better, but traditional food industry has not been able to address this demand. This lack of responsibility of the food industry is one of the causes of the double burden of malnutrition that we are facing nowadays, a social problem growing at an accelerated pace in emerging economies.

In the same way, agricultural industrialization disconnected people from farmers and from soil. The so-called “Green” Revolution introduced many good technologies, but also agrochemicals and genetically modified crops that took away farmers’ independence on external resources. We moved away from a sustainable and natural model to a petrol and chemical-based model. This revolution was supposed to end hunger across the globe. It did help increase grain production, specially wheat, corn and soy. But is also helped to diminish biodiversity, increase climate-change and jeopardize smallholder farmers. 

The relationships and bonds within the food system, as our ancestors had in previous millennia, were lost. Only a few people know exactly what they eat, who grew these foods and what is their impact on the world. Bringing this together means bringing to the table consciousness and awareness about our impact as species on the planet.

We have increased the flow of information among humans, using technology to make this information accessible to more and more people. The Internet has boosted communication and empowered people to question the status quo, including the food manufacturers’ role in the food systems. Nowadays we can have greater transparency and data flow across the supply chain. 

People from all sectors - government, the private sector and NGOs - need to review the food systems they are part of, promoting chains that have a positive social, environmental and economic impact.

The current food system also needs to change. Besides the conventional way of production, it relies heavily on middlemen and distributors, with little or no integration throughout the value chain. There is a lack of data-flow and many inefficiencies that lead to food waste and unfair relationships. Suppliers heavily rely on aggressive and extrativist methods of production. Customers become easily trapped by the convenience of cheap and unhealthy food. 

Around 70% of all organic producers are small-holder farmers, most of them depend on distributors to sell their harvests. They are exposed to complex variables and find themselves in situations where they compete with traditional agriculture, forcing them to sell their products at prices that barely pay their costs. Brazil’s organic food market is evolving, but its supply chain is still unripe.

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

One of the key aspects to adress this challenges is to develop a food system that is sustainable and scable, promoting positive social, environmental and economic impact. One of the ways is to reconnect agricultural, gastronomic and industrial sectors with each other and with customers. In order to do that, Liv Up has been developing tasty, nutritional, convenient and responsibly sourced food.

As a digital native vertical brand, Liv Up focus is on customers. The feedback loop of our industry is shorten what enable us to have a more responsive attitude towards our customer´s needs. We collect data, identify demands and transform it into better products and experiences, which leads to more clients, that gives us more data, making it a virtuous cycle. 

At the other hand, a cooperative and responsible supply-chain is key to sustain rapid growth and add value to the product. The sourcing is made by agronomists directly with smallholder organic farmers, planning every ingredient, promoting fair-trade relationships and environmental-friendly food production. Chefs, nutritionists and engineers develop together delicious and nutritious recipes, combining it with efficient work cells that enable production to scale without compromising on quality. 

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 place and the lives will change by reconnecting people with food and with the environment. By giving to farmers financial stability and professional realization. By reconnecting the agricultural, gastronomic and industrial sectores and offering urban people tasty, nutritional, convenient and responsibly sourced food.

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

We propose an alternative food system based on 3 pillars:

1. Transparent and cooperative supply chains through fair-trade relations, where there is no exploitation, but symbiotic bonds, where all sides are benefited. Just as nature is organized through cooperative systems to be in its dynamic balance, human society should do so for its evolution and maintenance. By building chains and strengthening existing ones, we can empower all links in the chain individually and collectively. Instead of generating competitiveness, as usual in the current system, it helps to cooperate and decentralize power, since the participation of all is recognized and valued individually, making the system more adaptable, mitigating the risks for each part, and creating even more fair relationships.

2. Respect to nature, integrating relationships between humans and other living beings - animals, plants, fungi, microorganisms - so the ecosystem is not only preserved but regenerated, increasing biodiversity and helping diminish climate change. Thus, a shift from conventional agriculture, based in herbicides and chemical fertilizers, to organic and regenerative agriculture, based on respect for the soil and biodiversity, is key to maintain dynamic balance and to provide resiliency in the face of ecosystem change. Studies show that organic farming is more resistant to drought and farmers have a better quality of life. As the organic movement matures, technologies will improve farmer’s productivity. Other actions are also complementary, in order to have enough food for everyone, such as improvements in food distribution, a shift to a more plant-based diet and food waste reduction.

3. Embedded technology, enabling data collection to bring transparency and to facilitate decision making across complex systems. Building the right tools to gather and share data is crucial to guarantee the system’s sustainability and alignment throughout each participant. If everyone knows their responsibility and impact in the whole chain, they become more conscious of the unity, nurturing symbiotic relationships within humans and with nature.

During the last 2 years, we have been developing a food supply chain based on these dimensions. “Liv Up” is a Direct-to-Consumer food tech startup, with the purpose of creating the food of our time. It is a vertical company, taking care from farmer to consumer: partnering directly with small-holder organic farmers, developing recipes designed by chefs and nutritionists, and delivering it to each person’s hands. All made with love, with no preservatives, artificial flavors or further additives. Good, clean and fair food.

To build a sustainable and regenerative food system, we put a lot of effort on the supply chain, integrating and facilitating decision making across each player by sharing data such as demand forecasting and production costs, so every partner can thrive as Liv Up scales. Our agronomists and agroecologists share the ingredients demand with each organic farmer and align with them: 

  1. Which vegetables they have experience with 

  2. How much of each crop they can grow.

  3. Which price works for both sides 

  4. When they can start each crop rotation - according to seasonality and landscape microclimate

  5. Which practices they can implement to improve soil health, such as composting.

Once a month, we visit each supplier to give free technical support, to update harvest forecasting and to check how the partnership is going for both sides. Furthermore, we foster visits between farmers, so they can exchange experiences, seeds and techniques, sharing traditional knowledge within the network. If there is a problem during plantation, we distribute the extra demand to other farmers, absorbing the negative impact and transforming in opportunity to others. We also encourage them to have other clients, so they as well are not fully dependent on Liv Up.

Such integration among the chain has many advantages. For Liv Up, there is a guaranteed supply of organic ingredients for agreed prices, as we source directly from the farmer, with data about how each crop is developing. For the farmers, there is a guaranteed demand for their crops, so they can focus on food production - instead of commercialization - for an agreed price, which makes their income independent from market fluctuations. Also, not everyone has access to technical support, so the partnership is a way to learn more organic and regenerative techniques. 

In 2019, over 230 tons of organic food was produced through these partnerships, representing around 65% of all vegetables cooked at Liv Up. We expect to reach 80% in 2020. Some farmers had an annual income of over R$100.000, while the majority of them ranged from R$70.000 to R$15.000. Many of them have accomplished personal goals, such as buying their own piece of land - instead of leasing it - and found in organic agriculture a purpose of living. It is an empirical example of how organic agriculture and small-holder farmers can effectively produce food in scale and in connection with food-manufactures, integrating every part from farm to the consumer with consciousness, regenerating soil and respecting nature. 

If we want to feed almost 10 billion people in 2050, while living on Mother Earth and respecting every living being, such integration is key. The future is made by what we do today, so it’s time to rethink our way of working and cooperating with each other.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Email

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Photo of Aphrodite Oti
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Middlemen are a critical and essential component of the food system globally for smallholder farms. They are a link between the farmers and the consumers. It will be great to learn of and be part of a project that accommodate their positive while eliminating their negative roles.

Building a sustainable food system requires the accommodation of all stakeholders in the food system to promote a healthy ecosystem.

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