Theory of Change
Circular Economy Framework in Food System Design
Deconstructing the current food system
Each of us must eat in order to survive. Food is one of our most fundamental biological needs. Humans are omnivorous and can obtain food from a variety of living systems.
Before the Industrial Revolution human beings adapted to nature, consuming what nature provided for them. With the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent emergence of larger cities and more advanced technologies that it enabled, human diets changed dramatically. Food has become more than just what we eat daily. Technological advances in agriculture, branding, media, advertising and pricing all influence contemporary human eating patterns. Pollan writes “The fact that we humans are indeed omnivorous is deeply inscribed in our bodies, which natural selection has equipped to handle a remarkably wide-range diet”. However, the biology of most of the food found in US supermarkets today is comprised of a very small number of plants, such as corn and soybeans. “For the past 50 years, U.S. farm policy has been increasingly directed toward driving down the price of farm commodities, including corn and soybeans.”
In this millennium, the economy is driven by linear consumption culture. The business model is product and money-oriented and food has been commoditized along with other mass-produced goods. As in other industries, the linear culture (take-make-consume-throwaway) has penetrated the food market. “In the USA, 30-40% of the food supply is wasted, equaling more than 20 pounds of food per person per month.” Such wasteful habits have devastating environmental effects. According to Georgia Griffin, all of this food waste is sent to landfills, where it then generates greenhouse gases equal to produced by two million cars annually.
Furthermore, processed foods account for a major share of the food market and a full 70% of American’s diets; meanwhile, 85% of Americans cannot afford to buy vegetables or fruits. This reality helps explain “where man lost his way and ended up on a path to obesity, diabetes, and heart illness.”
According to the organization State of Obesity, rates of these chronic diseases have doubled over the past twenty years. These diseases are associated with lower productivity in the community, job and school absences, and “42% more for direct healthcare cost.”
The commoditized linear food system does not sustain a balance or harmony between production, consumption, and nature.
Early humans ate what nature provided for them.
Early humans adopted to the harmony of nature.
Early humans' diet was Polycultural.
Circular Food System is designed to transform the current food retail store (commodity-based) to operate on a circular pattern (community/service-based). With Heart Brain Farm, the consumer is directly involved in the production of food, and receives credits and discounts for her or his contributions to the system.
In this system users collaborate with local farmers by supplying them with organic, healthy, and free resources. This eliminates the need for costly fertilizers and other products that currently render organic produce impossibly expensive for many people.
Organic fertilizers have a higher cost per unit of nutrient than synthetic fertilizer sources which, in turn, make the yielded crops’ prices higher. Although seemingly-cheaper, synthetic fertilizers have long term negative effects. They kill beneficial microorganisms in soil and “Nitrogen- and phosphate-based synthetic fertilizers leach into groundwater and increase its toxicity, causing water pollution.”
Furthermore, most farms add hormones to animal feed, which can also create health risks for people who eat the resulting meat products. The cost of organic food for these animals makes organic protein very expensive in retail stores.
The main objective with Circular Food System is the creation of a zero-waste community.
There are two main centers in the system: black flies center and red worm one. Based on your diet, the customer can decide on the journey of their kitchen waste with the application in their smart phone and their membership to the system:
Black flies emerge, mate and die. Each time they go through this life cycle, they create 200-500 eggs in one bucket. These eggs then turn to larvae, which eat the kitchen waste and become mature. These larvae are wonderful protein sources for pigs, fish, and chickens. In the end of this circle, users are awarded credit or discounts for eggs, chickens, fish, or pork products.
Red worms break down kitchen waste, transforming it to fertilizer. The fertilizer can then be transferred to local farms. In the end of this circle, users are awarded credit or discounts for vegetables, fruits, roots, or grains.
These 2 circles create resources for farmers while reducing prices on healthy food in the community. Using natural methods of transforming kitchen waste to food resources is slower than the technological methods applied by today’s commercial farmers, but red worms and black flies duplicate easily and can, therefore, be conceptualized as a sustainable resource. These two living species are also highly sensitive to chemical materials. They react and die if there is chemical contamination in the bucket. This helps to ensure that the farming materials that they produce are safe and will support the growth of healthy plants.
This system supports the maintenance of a healthy community while reducing the price of organic food. This, in turn, helps to reduce the costs of healthcare. Moreover, everyone in the community would know where their food came from and because they are involved in the processes of production, the amount of wasted food would decrease.
Mass production= Mass consumption
"There are 47000 items in the supermarkets of USA and half of them made of corn."
Corn maintain its identity in the human body.
Humans' diet become Monocultural.
Human become corn
“As key representatives of the soil fauna, earthworms are essential in maintaining soil fertility through their burrowing, ingestion and excretion activities. There are over 8000 described species worldwide, existing every- where but in Polar and arid climates.”1
The earthworms are working as a sensor to the ecosystem. “They are increasingly recognised as indicators of agroecosystem health and ecotoxicological sentinel species because they are constantly exposed to contaminants in soil.” 2
Eisenia Fetida, well known as red wiggler or compost worm is a species of earthworms family. In most of the countries, these worms are sold commercially for composting and fish bait. According to Jim Robbins, a writer in NY Times, Red Wigglers compost called black gold for growers.3
1-2. Mehdi, Pirooznia, and Gong Ping. “Cloning, Analysis and Functional Annotation of Expressed Sequence Tags from the Earthworm Eisenia Fetida.” BMC Bioinformatics, n.d.
3.Jim, Robbins. “Worms Produce Another Kind of Gold for Growers.” NYTimes
Black Soldier Flies Larvae (BSFL) are best alternative for animal feeds, “fly larvae can convert low-value organic materials into protein and fat.”1
In 1959, three researchers, Furman, Young and Catts made the first contemporary studies about Hermetia Illucens or in another word Black Soldier Flies (BSF) and their larvae.2
They are from Stratiomyidae family and commonly found in tropical areas. “ As adults, the BSF does not possess a stinger, nor do they possess a mouthpart or digestive organs to allow them to consume waste; therefore, they do not bite either.”3
According to Sustainable department Ph.D candidate Shwe Sin Win in Rochester institute of Technology, this is one of the reasons BSF die in 5-8 days.
“The BSF lifecycle consists of four stages, namely; egg, larvae, pupae, and adult.”4
Female Black Soldier Flies find a mate, few days after they leave their last pupal case. The female discharge 500 and more eggs in a dry environment. According to W. Diclaro II and Kaufman, every egg has 1 mm length and they are white and creamy. The female Black Soldier fly, discharge the eggs close to the organic matter.
After the laid stage, according to ESR International research and development company (2008), the eggs need to stay 105 hours. “Once the eggs hatch, the larvae find whatever waste they can and immediately start to consume it.”5
“Larvae are quite omnivorous, as they feed on a variety of materials ranging from animal and human faeces , kitchen waste to vertebrate remains (e.g., decomposing swine carcases). Depending on the size of the larvae, type of the substrate available, and environmental conditions (e.g., moisture, temperature, and air supply), the larvae consume from 25 to 500 mg of organic matter per larva per day. Similarly, depending on the substrate type, the larvae are reported to reduce the waste by about 39% (pig manure) and 50% (chicken manure) to 68% (municipal organic waste) and have a food conversion ratio (FCR) of about 10 to 15 . The larval stage is usually 14 days or longer depending on availability of food , and appropriate environmental conditions .” 6
“During the later larval stage; the stage prior to pupation termed as prepupae, larvae get rid of their digestive tract and migrate away from their food sources in search of dry and protected place to pupate. Since adults are non-feeding, BSF larvae consume organic matter as much as possible and store fat and protein in their body to support their metabolism during pupal and adult stages. By using a specially designed bioreactor, the typical migrating behavior of prepupae can be exploited for self-harvesting of pre- pupae for extracting fat and protein for value-added products generation. The pupation stage usually lasts for two weeks under ideal environmental conditions.”
Then, the adult BSF emerges and they start to reproducing again and the life system cycle repeat itself. 7
1. Gary, Burtle, Newton G.Larry, and Sheppard D.Craig. “Mass Production of Black Fly Pre Pupae for Aquaculture Diets.” University of Gorgia
2. R, . Rozkosný. A Biosystematic Study of the European Stratiomyidae (Diptera). Vol. 2
3. Haeree, Park. “Black Soldier Fly Larvae Manual.” University of Massachusetts- Amherst
4. K.C, Surendra, Olivier Robert, Tomberlin Jeffery K., Jha Rajesh, and Kumar Khanal Samir. “Bioconversion of Organic Wastes into Biodiesel and Animal Feed via Insect Farming.” Renewable Energy
5. Haeree, Park. “Black Soldier Fly Larvae Manual.” University of Massachusetts- Amherst
6. K.C, Surendra, Olivier Robert, Tomberlin Jeffery K., Jha Rajesh, and Kumar Khanal Samir. “Bioconversion of Organic Wastes into Biodiesel and Animal Feed via Insect Farming.” Renewable Energy
7. K.C, Surendra, Olivier Robert, Tomberlin Jeffery K., Jha Rajesh, and Kumar Khanal Samir. “Bioconversion of Organic Wastes into Biodiesel and Animal Feed via Insect Farming.” Renewable Energy
"Watching the bag that you hold in the picture, it seems that it is not flexible and it's very big. I am not sure if it's only an example, but you could have a picture where people can see it full of what they usually would carry in it...
a problem that I see in the idea is the smell of leftovers.. and I am not sure how people would handle with that and how long that would wait until giving their leftovers... would they use their cars to go there and deliver it? because then they would be producing carbon dioxide."
Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul
"This is an interesting idea that deserves more attention. I understand that it is like a bio-shredder. I think, after a couple of iterations, this could turn into a great product people would like to have for themselves. I, for myself, would definitely try it out for my garden and see its effects on soil productivity. To that end, I think, Mehrafza you must not ignore the potential for a successful product. You could build a business around it."
"Excellence ideas and this could be one of the solutions to address the growing problem of food waste across the global food supply chain at every stage, from "farm-to-fork" in community/local level."
E Shwe Sin Win
"The philosophy behind this well thought out project is very very valuable. The proposed system encourages people to do something right and healthy. Also gives us the chance to show our respect to nature. We know making compost is quite important for sustainability. People learn how to do it from permaculture educations or different resources. Its not very difficult but needs some efforts. Hence most of us give up after few trial. Thanks to this solution i can be involved in the process just donating my left overs and can follow whole process through app (seems more easy and applicable for majority). Maybe in time, the ones who are more into this, can get some tips and motivation from app and even start to do their own compost and donate compost directly.
I believe that Heart Brain Farm System has the potential to create the change! "
"First of all congrats for your environmentally sensitive and creative thinking. I really like the communications materials, they are very understandable and appealing. However I have concerns about the economical sustainability of the project. In your research you also mentioned that production with organic fertilizers is more expensive than using chemical fertilizers. Is giving organic home waste to farmers enough to close the price gap between organic and non-organic production? I guess the production with organic fertilizers is also a slower process than the commercialized way. Is the how many times you can harvest the same for both types of production? In the end what I want to say is: Is it profitable enough for small local farmers to abondon their ways and adopt the circular system.
Another difficulty might be about the infrastructure. I am guessing that there will be one type of supermarket who will accept the organic waste and will also purchase from those farmers. Will it make farmers dependent to one single buyer? However having more buyers might make the system more profitable: let's say the farmer can sell the half of what he produced to the heart brain market with lower prices thanks to their fertilizer contribution, and sell half of the production to other organic good markets for the average market prices. That way it might become a more profitable business model.
Another concern for the infrastructure would be the storage of the compost. The supermarket will take them and store them somewhere for a while. There is a danger of spillage even if the bag itself is sealed. Especially when the supermarket needs to store them on top of each other. That would release the worms and flies into the supermarket which the customers won't be to happy about. But of course this is something rather easy to avoid, not a huge problem.
I am sorry if I was too money focused but I believe for a system to work, it should work money wise first. Because it is how the system actors makes their life. If there is no gain for the, there is no reason to be involved. This can work for volunteering based small community gardens but to scale up an economical gain is needed. Maybe I was too exposed to start-up pitches and lost my my thinking that puts sustainability first."