The founding partner of Fazu, an urban farm in São Paulo, was flying over the metropolis of 12+ million people when he noticed just how much unused gray spaces dominated the landscape from above. A thought stuck with him: “Why not use hydroponics to color up the city’s rooftops and slabs while also bringing healthier and fresher products to the population?”
Fazu’s mission is to change the way leafy greens are produced and consumed in Brazil. Gabriel Cano, the Co-Founder and CEO of Fazu tells us, “The conventional way of distributing vegetables has been the same for ages. That is, rural production goes to marginal locations near large cities and supplies them with food.” Fazu thinks there are more creative and efficient ways to tackle this problem. “Our goal is to rethink the vegetable chain and bring truly healthy, fresh food that does not degrade the environment for a democratic price to both regular clients and restaurants,” says Cano.
Urban farming has gained popularity in Brazil over the past few years, but the market is still very niche and market prices are still very high, making it difficult for consumers and restaurants to afford these locally-grown products. Many Brazilian cities have also faced issues with food distribution. From producers to consumers, there are two main paths for food distribution. Producers either sell straight to big retailers or to São Paulo’s open vegetable market, Companhia de Entrepostos e Armazéns Gerais de São Paulo (CEAGESP). However, food loss occurs along each path. If a product is not sold off the retailer’s shelves in 2-3 days, it is discarded. At the CEAGESP, food loss mainly occurs due to poor handling and logistics both at the market as well as by the end user - usually restaurants or retailers.
Both of these paths create “an excessive number of intermediaries between harvest and consumption” leading to ”a loss of ~40% of total crop production,” Cano explains. Fazu eliminates food waste by only harvesting daily what will be delivered to their customers. “We are currently working with <1% waste on our farm. If we have excess inventory of specific products we either donate them to NGOs or send as a 'free trial' to chefs and influencers.” In a country with such a high inequality gap, this number is extremely important. With few players in Brazil’s urban farming landscape, there is a great opportunity for the industry to grow.