Geico supports HUMAN’S GARDEN,
a startup that puts values and passion at the heart of its business.
Producing excellent quality fruit and vegetables through a process that is innovative and traditional at the same time.
Social responsibility, sustainability and respect for the environment are the main ingredients.
Profits are allocated to community activities.
Milan, xx November 2016. Determination. Passion. Environmental protection. Focus on people. Social responsibility. Always looking to the future while respecting tradition. These are the values upheld by Geico, a global leader in the design and manufacture of turnkey automated vehicle body-painting systems, which led to the decision to support Human’s Garden.
From the very early stages of this project, Geico has strongly believed in this idea, which is perfectly consistent with the Group’s approach.
In early 2016 two young engineers, Luca Lancini and Raffaele Moretti, met President Ali Reza Arabnia and described what at the time was only an idea. A simple but revolutionary idea: to start up a company that could generate value for the community, by providing tools to those who have the capabilities but not the means to implement them.
This is how Human’s Garden started: a group of 10 entrepreneurs who share the desire to “do something” – something new, something useful and focused on the local environment where they live. And a group of young graduates from diverse backgrounds, willing to put time and dedication into the project. A number of professionals who are attracted by the idea and try to contribute to it.
Human’s Garden is an innovative startup with a social mission, created at the initiative of this group of businessmen and professionals who, inspired by tradition and a thorough analysis of the concept of environmental, social and economic sustainability, developed an interesting method of cultivation that can reproduce the cycle of nature.
“Something is environmentally and ecologically sustainable when it protects, restores or regenerates the environment rather than degrade it” – J. Dernbach
The basic process is aquaponics, i.e. the combination of raising fish and growing plants in a structured and recirculating ecosystem, in which bacterial cycles convert organic waste from fish into nutrients for the plants. A simple, sustainable and natural food production method that integrates the best characteristics of aquaculture and hydroponics, but without any waste of water, filtration or addition of chemical fertilizers.
One of the aspects that make this project truly innovative is the social impact it will have on the territory and the communities who live there. In effect, the basic goal is to subvert the practices that have prevailed in social activities for many years, to change radically the relationship between businesses and the communities in which they operate: rather than giving away something, teach how to produce it.
“We want to create a real, replicable example of a driver whose purpose is the generation of value. What if innovation were simply going back to working together, uniting and believing that simple cooperation between the different stakeholders involved can create added value? We undertake to redistribute any profits to other entities engaged in community activities in our region,” said Raffaele Moretti, one of the young people involved in the Human’s Garden project.
Human’s Garden is a ten-year not-for-profit project. After ten years, the company will be allocated to parties who will be free to decide which business to pursue, whether for profit or non-profit. In any case, all added value will be used for social purposes.
Human’s Garden is located in the heart of the Franciacorta region, on a plot consisting of 5,000 sqm of covered area (greenhouses) and about 23,000 sqm of land. In addition to the evident benefits of its being internationally recognized for winemaking excellence and as an agricultural and industrial hub, we have chosen this area also with the aim of redeveloping an abandoned district of very high landscape value.
“We have been very excited about this project from the outset. Ever since Luca and Raffaele discussed it with us the first time. We identify with all the principles that have inspired it and we are happy to support the growth of such a groundbreaking idea. We admire the commitment and determination that these two young men are demonstrating with the aim to give a practical contribution to the growth of their region, also in terms of employment, so as to return to our children the rich and luxurious land we received from our forefathers,” said Ali Reza Arabnia, President and CEO of the Geico Taikisha Group.
“We had the opportunity to listen to Mr. Arabnia talking about Gate Bridge, an interesting project aimed at hiring young graduates aged 18 to 30 years in local companies. We had the impression he shared the same concerns that drive our own projects. We took the liberty to ask for a meeting so we could present our idea. He agreed to meet us. Sometimes doors open: you just have to knock. And in there you find people and ideas that coalesce into enthusiasm,” commented Silvano Lancini, one of the promoters of Human’s Garden.
TECHNICAL INFORMATION ON AQUAPONICS:
Aquaponics is the combination of raising fish and growing plants in a structured and recirculating ecosystem, in which bacterial cycles convert organic waste from fish into nutrients for the plants. A simple, sustainable and natural food production method that integrates the best characteristics of aquaculture and hydroponics, but without any waste of water, filtration or addition of chemical fertilizers.
This system transforms the main weaknesses of each of these techniques into great advantages for each other. Indeed, in aquaculture the problem is filtering the water to remove the fish waste, which would otherwise make the environment toxic; in hydroponics, continuous supply and manual balancing of chemical nutrients are required to keep the plants alive. The bacteria introduced in the ecosystem convert ammonia contained in organic fish waste – thus cleaning the environment – into complete nutrients for the plants.
Clearly, the synergy that is created between these two systems allows to recreate the typical balance of ecosystems in nature. This collaboration is only possible thanks to the key role played by bacteria, which converts the ammonia contained in biological waste from fish into complete plant nutrients. As this is an organic process in a natural and self-balancing ecosystem, any substances introduced from the outside like pesticides, in the case of plants, or hormones and antibiotics, in the case of fish, would result in the disruption of this balance.
In effect, fertilizers would compromise the fish habitat and its well-being, and the chemicals added to stimulate fish growth would cause an immediate imbalance and consequent suffering of the plants on the other side of the ecosystem. In this way, this naturally self-balancing system is synonymous with efficiency and ease of management, as well as a guarantee of total naturalness.
Following this reasoning, aquaponics growers are proud breeders of bacteria. The animals that feed the system are fish, but the engine are the bacteria that convert fish waste into energy and nutrients for the plants.
Among the hundreds of bacteria that inhabit the aquaponic system, only two types carry out the crucial task of transforming the toxic ammonia produced by fish into benign nitrates, i.e. nitrosomonas and nitrospiras. These bacteria are called “nitrifying bacteria”, and can be summarily described as follows:
– They are aerobic and autotrophic because they need air to live and are able to utilize inorganic compounds (ammonia and nitrites) as energy sources. Heterotrophic bacteria are also essential within the system, as they are able to synthesize organic compounds.
– They need large areas where to settle and colonize.
– Very high nitrite and ammonia conversion efficiency.
– Nitrifying bacteria reproduce by binary fission and are therefore able to double their number in 15-20 hours depending on environmental conditions.
The precious work done by bacteria can be summarised as follows: the first type of bacteria, nitrosomonas, create nitrites as a product of the ammonia consumption. However, these nitrites are still toxic to fish and are a weak resource for plants.
The second type of bacterium, nitrospira, attracted by nitrites consumes the latter, producing nitrates that are an excellent source of nitrogen for plants.
In summary, the advantages of this system are:
- Significant reduction (up to 90%) in the use of water compared to traditional cultivation methods;
- Plant growth is significantly faster;
- The grown vegetables are larger and healthier;
- Absence of damage caused by pests and diseases;
- No artificial fertilizers to feed the plants;
- Elimination of the problem of disposing of fish waste or providing an artificial filtration system;
- Significantly lower use of soil compared to that needed to grow the same crops with traditional methods;
- Non-seasonal and therefore more continuous than traditional cultivation methods;
- Work is done at workbench height, in a protected environment;
- It is organic.