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Transdisciplinary hubs for building a circular system of wholeness, preservation and resignification of local agricultural resources

Hubs where researchers, artists, designers and the community eliminate the concept of food waste by transforming it into valuable resources

Photo of Daniela Serruya Kohn
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

A Cozinha Nômade

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.

A cozinha nômade (small company) Vista Alegre (Farmer Business Organization) Massalas (Small company) Ponto biodesign (Biodesign Researcher)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

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

  • Just beginning now

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

Belo Horizonte

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Federative Republic of Brazil

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

Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte (RMBH)

What country is your selected Place located in?

Federative Republic of Brazil

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

All four organizations of the team members are based in counties of the Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte. 

Team member 1: Vista Alegre is a farm based in Capim Branco. They offer a more sustainable food production, without the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, using nature as their ally, bringing to their production fields the ecological interactions that occur in nature, seeking the balance between species.

Team member 2: A Cozinha Nômade 

Multidisciplinary project created for connection between visual art, ecology and education through multissensorial experiences, wild fermentation, gastronomy and social interaction.

Team member 3: Ponto Biodesign is an experimental lab and design studio based on the concept of ‘when biology and design meet’. Their research focuses on biofabrication of bacterial cellulose grown with waste from local food companies. Their aim is to develop new biomaterials and use them in local products.

Team member 4: Located in county Esmeraldas, MASSALAS is a social business that encourages integration with the natural environment and care in human relations. They collect and compost organic waste and use it as organic fertilizer in nearby agroforestry systems that benefit family farming in the region. They also offer education about natural diet, the use of local agroecological ingredients, Ayurveda and anthroposophy.

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.

"Belo Horizonte is a creative, pulsating city, increasingly connected, where culture, art, gastronomy, scientific knowledge and technology move everyday life. A modern, versatile, fascinating urban space that exceeds expectations and renews itself every day". On one hand, we have the traditions of the state of Minas Gerais (MG), which includes the most diverse gastronomy in Brazil and the hospitality of the "mineiros" (MG's gentilic). And on another hand, the unique creativity and innovation of cultural events and technological development.

Belo Horizonte is the capital of the state of Minas Gerais and the sixth largest city in the country.  The greater part of the population and commercial activities of the region are concentrated here. For this reason, the description below is mostly about the characteristics of Belo Horizonte. The Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte  (RMBH) consists of 34 municipalities and has a GDP of R$ 217.59 millions (32.3% of the GDP of Minas Gerais state). The climate of the region has tropical characteristics with alternation of dry and rainy seasons demarcated throughout the year and with an average temperature around 21.1 ° C.

The metropolitan farmers are located in the peri-urban surroundings of Belo Horizonte, and in the last few years there has been increased in the number and size of companies that produce organic food seeking for a more sustainable production, fair labor and a more engaged community. This companies (e.g. Vista Alegre) nourishes Belo Horizonte with organic fruits and vegetables and also are encouraging a more conscious lifestyle. They produce pineapples, plums, bananas, lemons, apples, mangos, rosemary, lettuce, cabbage, lemongrass, mint, basil, pumpkin, turmeric, garlic, potatoes, onions, carrots, manioc, corn, okra, cucumber, tomato, local plants like ora-pro-nobis and almeirão and non-conventional edible plants like sweet potato leaf and banana blossom (umbigo de banana).

The gastronomy of the RMBH is special not only because of its history, tradition and diversity, but also for transforming the diet culture into a unique experience. The pleasure of dining in the region is linked to the pleasure of being well received. The gastronomy of the capital is a world reference and has a wide variety of recipes and local products. On October 30th 2019, Belo Horizonte was integrated to the Unesco Creative Cities Network for its gastronomy.

The innovation ecosystem is one of the pillars of the city's economic development. Universities, public and private sectors seek intelligent solutions to urban challenges of a contemporary metropolis with Belo Horizonte's dimensions. The city is a knowledge hub, with 62 higher education institutions. Even though Brazil's political scenario is currently turmoil and has generated a lot of distrust, "mineiros" will to be actively involved with initiatives with positive impact and that benefit their community is increasing.

(Main reference: )

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


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


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

We believe that this region has great initiatives that are working to create more sustainable solutions in specific areas of the local food chain system, but currently there isn’t a place where they can come together to create systemic solutions and connect to develop transdisciplinary projects that can improve the food chain as a system. Currently, a high percentage of industrial and agricultural food production becomes waste in a short period of time. This short cycle produces a great amount of waste and pollution like contamination of groundwater, the emission of greenhouse gases, organic waste and packaging going straight to landfills in cities surrounding the capital. 

There's misinformation and lack of tools and accessible information about the multiple possibilities of reusing food waste for composting, bioenergy, biomaterials production and non conventional recipes. The RMBH doesn't have a public system for collection and recycling of organic waste which impoverishes the soil and causes several environmental impacts. We need to build individual and collective awareness and provide real options and tools in order for the community to know what concrete actions they can do. 

Disarticulation between the micro and macro-politics is an obstacle to implement technologies for recover resources and devasted areas. Permissions to develop solutions and rebuild territories depends on many government conditions and licenses, restricted to a minority. Public and private institutions that concentrates power and resources, need to get involved with innovative, sustainable and replicable ideas and projects. Public mismanagement creates a high damage, matching small initiatives  through severe bureaucracies and taxes rated as high as big companies. This makes harder to develop innovative and sustainable projects for small businesses.

Eliminating the pesticides and chemical fertilizers that threatens the life of entire ecosystems and the health of our community. In the last few years the amount of organic farmers in the region increased, but at the same time, the federal government permits the use of more pesticides. Furthermore, cultural habits are directly affected by this reality, including their diet. Having a natural and organic diet is expensive and only is accessible for people with more purchasing power. The rush in people everyday routine makes them fall into fast food consumption and industrialized, pasteurized, processed products that capture and deceive them by presenting themselves as an appealing practical option. Unpacking those kinds of products is a more common practice than to peel a fruit or a vegetable, which becomes a revolutionary action to be spread in society, through environmental and food education. It is important that the self-sustaining food culture becomes a responsibility to be taken in the urban community.

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

Having physical spaces around the region will facilitate the unification of the community regarding concrete actions and tools that they can use to improve our food system. These food system hubs will concentrate local, organic products; options of restaurants where people can have healthy, vegan diets full of probiotics; access to learning experiences, ecological education, a place to destine their organic waste and knowing it will be either used as a resource for making other materials and energy or it will be composted, going back to nature. The food that is not sold in restaurants and the organic market will be given to institutions dedicated to connect leftovers in good conditions with people and institutions that need them.

To make our food system work in a more sustainable way, we believe there has to be a group of leaders in design, art, research, education and media working together, facilitating information, projects and tools. People from the community could make changes in the way they are doing now. The only way changes can be possible is if citizens get truly engaged in seeking to make things different, living a healthier life, helping others to grow. And for that happens, it has to be somewhere educating, leading and showing the way in a collective.

Those hubs around the region will provide spaces for the dissemination of knowledge, professional training and open source for people to think about the conscious in their consumption and sustainable lifestyle. Humans need to reconnect with nature. New recipes will be created using peels, stems, leftovers, crushed parts of fruits and vegetables, to transform aesthetic and market concepts, re-educating and raising awareness among the population in the RMBH integrating them to vegetarianism, veganism and flexitarianism through dialogues and events that will strengthen this proposal. Furthermore, innovative recipes will be developed through the discovery and diffusion of new food like wild plants, algae and fungi, using conservation and preservation practices, which may also be a vehicle for a better way of life in a holistic and interconnected system. 

The implementation of methodologies to replicate successful multidisciplinary projects from one hub to another will facilitate research and application of innovative solutions towards a circular economy in the region. Family farming and industrial environments will be able to develop and promote campaigns and actions for the creation and diffusion of cooperatives, to gather and protect their enterprises, connecting and listening to the consumer and being officially certified.

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.

We believe in 2050 the majority (60%) of our region's population will be vegetarian or vegan, that our food will be organic, grown locally by farmers we know and admire for all they do for the community. We believe in 2050 we will eat probiotics and fermented food every day, that there will be a database full of innovative recipes with non-conventional edible plants (PANCs - plantas alimentícias não convencionais), insects, parts of plants that we are not used to eat. 

We want to realize the projects that biodesigners of the city are researching today, where microorganisms are co-creators of a new generation of healthy materials that will replace toxic ones that we use today. Because in 2050, kids will find absurd that their parents used to send to landfills their organic waste, because then it will be used as energy for their houses and schools, will be the raw material for their furniture, packaging, other food recipes, art until finally returning to nature as natural fertilizer to the soil through composting.

The community will be empowered, they will know the huge impact they have just by choosing what, where and how they eat. They will recuse to buy food with pesticides, single-use plastic packaging, food grown by companies that deplete the soil and give poor labor conditions to their workers.

People will enjoy knowing that decisions and innovative projects are made together with them in physical transdisciplinary hubs with focus in the food system of the region. Spaces where they can learn and be an active part of a transdisciplinary task force that will work on building a more circular food system along with other people of the community. They will feel safe and hopeful having these hubs that will relentlessly work for a more healthy food chain in the city and will provide them with healthy and nourishing food, products and services.

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

Imagine the Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte in 2050. This creative, pulsating region, where culture, art, gastronomy, scientific knowledge and technology move everyday life, brought to the next level. A place where the food system leave no waste and no one behind. Where the very concept of food waste doesn't exist anymore and the value of agricultural resources is make the most. Where you have a physical space near by, with a task force you can rely on. Where you can engage together with other members of the community to achieve a healthy closed loop food system. Imagine a future where you have control over what you eat, how that food was grown and by who. A future where instead of worrying about how many pesticides you're putting into your body, you can enjoy knowing you are nourishing yourself with good microorganisms and a healthy, local vegetarian or vegan diet.

What if the materials used for packaging, building houses, clothes and your furniture where grown by microorganisms that convert fruit peel and organic waste into natural, compostable matter that after being used can return to nature safely. What if food waste could be turned into energy to power our city or into intelligent materials for a bioart exhibition. What if small businesses, research groups, organic farmers and other initiatives in the food system had the support of our government instead of being hindered in processes of trying to make positive changes. 

We as a community are going to be so united and strong that we'll be able to make changes in policies and dictate rules that will benefit the food system in our region. We, led by an awesome task force working in several hubs around the region will create and execute innovative and sustainable solutions in order to achieve a closed loop food system. These physical spaces are going to work as the brain for the circular food system for the Metropolitan Area of Belo Horizonte (RMBH). They will connect farmers, designers, artists, researchers, educators, media, and most importantly it will be open for the people of the community to actively engage in the projects, support them proudly and love them.  

The RMBH's hubs will amaze the community restructuring the concept of what the food system is today, they will disrupt the way we do things by simultaneously working in the following departments:

1. Research laboratory: In this space designers, engineers, biologists, farmers, artists and other resarchers will develop a new generation of natural materials using what is currently food waste as raw materials for packaging, construction, consumer goods, art, fashion, etc. Biofabrication will be one of the main tools applied in this department, where microorganisms will co-create solutions together with the researchers. The aim is to develop economically sustainable solutions so that they can be applied by local companies in a wider scale.

2. Kitchen laboratory: We want non-conventional edible plants (PANCs - plantas alimentícias não convencionais) local fruits and vegetables, parts of the food that are not eaten normally and fermented food to be fully ingrained in the daily routine of our community. In order to do that, the kitchen laboratory will be responsible for creating innovative recipes, passing them to the restaurants in the food court, make a database of open-source recipes, making workshops available for the community and curating innovative dinners with different sensorial experiences in order to connect with food in other levels. The kitchen laboratory will produce knowledge and design experiences that will nourish the community physically and mentally.

3. Food court: This space will offer organic, vegan, zero-waste food for the community of the RMBH, providing healthy meals that nourish their bodies and their city without compromising the practicality they need. It will promote the consumption of non-conventional vegetables, probiotics and innovative food experiences. The food court will have an organized department that is in charge of organizing all of the leftovers from the restaurants and get them ready to be donated to people in need, instead of being composted. 

4. Market: The market will sell local organic products. Products will use compostable, returnable, refillable or not packaging at all. Whenever possible, food will be sold in bulk in refillable stations. Information about who and how the product was grown will be available for customers. Farmers and companies that produce the food will open their doors for visitations so the community can see, learn, engage more with the whole process and be aware of all it takes to get the food to their day to day life. 

5. Knowledge Exchange: Having a space to share knowledge and make activities with the community is one of the key factors to make a closed loop food system. People's actions are the most important ingredient in making this project work. And is through workshops, movies, conferences, and educational activities that their willingness and engagement will be fed. The Knowledge Exchange department will also help grow trust within the community by providing a space to be transparent to show what's being done and the things that can still be better. It's also a space to listen to the real needs of the people so we can develop solutions custom made for our "mineiro" community. 

6. Art Gallery: There will be a space dedicated to exhibitions that explore the intersection of biology, art, food, technology and design. We believe that bioart can help sensibilize and transform the way our community sees the connections that exist between them and nature. It's a tool that can encourage our community to ask themselves questions about how and why we do things the way we do and is there a better way? This gallery can be a door full of wonders that can make people from our community more interested in the hub so they can start getting involved. 

7. Organic waste collection center: The hub will be a collection point of organic waste that can either go to the research department; go to industries that are already commercializing solutions or using that resource as raw matter for other products, be transformed into energy or be destined to the compost center.

Now, let's imagine this awesome cenario with real people (our team members) within the food and agriculture system in the RMBH! We'll call this example "The Banana Project". 

Think about connecting an organic local producer (Projeto Vista Alegre); a food innovator, specialist in fermented food and bioartist (Cozinha Nômade); a biodesigner whose research focuses on biofabrication of bacterial cellulose grown with food waste to develop new biomaterials (Ponto Biodesign); and a social business that encourages integration with the natural environment and care in human relations, that collect and compost organic waste and use it as organic fertilizer in nearby agroforestry systems that benefit family farming in the region (Massalas).

Vista alegre is a small local business that produces organic food. One of the products that generates more waste are bananas. Whenever possible, Vista Alegre will sell their products directly to clients to eliminate packaging waste using reusable bags and boxes. In order to get the community more engaged with the process, they will offer visitations to their farm, where they can show their production while having fun and educational activities. 

The bananas sold in Belo Horizonte's farmers markets and grocery stores will be packaged with compostable materials, created by Ponto Biodesign together with the University of the State of Minas Gerais. 

The bananas that aren't sold, instead of being thrown away, will go to A Cozinha Nômade, that will ferment them using microorganisms to make banana vinegar. This product will be sold, recovering the value of the resource that is currently going to landfills. Furthermore, the probiotics in the vinegar will nourish the consumers, giving them a practical option for a more healthy diet. A Cozinha Nômade will also have workshops to teach people how to make their own vinegar; they will create new recipes to use the vinegar together with non-conventional edible plants produced by Vista Alegre; they will offer a dining experience event, where they will introduce some of those innovative recipes to people along with different sensorial experiences.

The banana peels, which are not used in vinegar production, will be given to Ponto Biodesign for a research project that aims to develop compostable materials. The banana peels will work as nutrients for bacteria to produce cellulose films and also as reinforcement to make biocomposites. Those materials will be applied in packaging for organic fruits and vegetables of Vista Alegre. Ponto Biodesign and A Cozinha Nômade will also give conferences and show documentaries about biofabrication, how microorganisms can help us build a new generation of biomaterials, how biofabrication is being applied in the Hub and what they can do to be a part of it. They will also create the first exhibition for the bioart gallery and give workshops to teach people how to make their own compostable materials at home.

In order for the materials to return safely to the biosphere, organic waste will be collected by Massalas to be composted. The organic matter will become natural fertilizer that will be used in nearby agroforestry systems that benefit family farming in the region, including the soil where the bananas are grown by Vista Alegre. They will offer education for the community about natural diet, the use of local agroecological ingredients, Ayurveda and anthroposophy. In these meetings people can learn from each other allowing them to reflect gratefully on their daily attitudes as human beings integrated to nature as a whole living organism.

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Thank you so much for the Food Extension Initiative.

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