The Regenerative Travel Impact Awards 2021 — Food and Agriculture

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The Regenerative Travel Impact Awards celebrate people and projects that embody the spirit of regeneration—improving people’s lives, our communities, and the world around us. We are searching the globe for inspiring changemakers working to solve our biggest challenges and inspiring positive action, both inside and outside of travel.

View the finalists for the Food & Agriculture category that promote healthy ecosystems and/ or restore food systems – improving land & food quality and availability, supporting farmers.

1. Alladale Wilderness Reserve: Aquaponics

During the 2020 lockdowns, award-winning Alladale Wilderness Reserve set about creating the UK’s largest aquaponic gardens. Aimed at drastically reducing transport miles, the gardens will grow to supply about 90% of all vegetables and herbs needed for Alladale’s guest menu. It utilizes technological advances and scientific knowledge and uses only 5% of the water required compared to using traditional food-growing systems. The zero-waste food production scheme uses trout to supply the nutrients needed for the plants to grow. The plants in turn filter the water for the fish. When the fish come to the end of their life cycle, they are also used for the guest menu.

The system runs on electricity generated by Alladale’s own hydro generator; no fossil fuels are involved. The setup is truly groundbreaking, especially if one considers its location: right in the heart of the Scottish Highlands with all its seasonal weather challenges. The gardens provide highly nutritious vegetables and herbs, and numerous fruit trees (such as apples and pears) have been planted. The site has instantly become a guest favorite, and is an inspiration across the Highlands for other estates and hotels. The gardens are yet another example of Alladale leading by example to inspire the adoption of regenerative methods, especially in notoriously hostile environments like the Scottish Highlands.

2. Onda Wellness

Onda’s mission is to heal the people, empower local farmers, and support the regeneration of the Earth. Founder Stephen Smith is a huge advocate for biodynamic farming and fair-wage practices, with the brand spearheading the case for using hemp and herbs as a way to disrupt the commodity and industrial farming paradigm, adding biological and financial diversity to traditional food-producing farms. Onda leads the regenerative hemp and herb movement, being the world’s first certified Biodynamic® CBD oil and first verified regenerative hemp product through the Savory Institute’s – the leading organization in restoring grasslands and supporting regeneration through large scale land management – EOV (environmental outcome verification) program.

Demeter Biodynamic® is the oldest regenerative organic certification body in the world – as well as the most rigorous. The standard includes necessary elements of the farm organism, soil fertility management, crop protection, greenhouse management, animal welfare, and the use of the preparations. Biological diversity within the farm landscape is emphasized, and requires that a minimum of ten percent of the total farm acreage be set aside as a biodiversity preserve. Diversity in crop rotation and perennial planting is required: no annual crop can be planted in the same field for more than two years in succession. Bare tillage year round is prohibited so land needs to maintain adequate green cover.

Onda’s hemp is grown on food farms that grow a variety of crops, herbs, pollinator species, and raises polycultures of livestock to build soil health from within. Additionally, it pays farmers what they want to be paid, not what the market dictates. For example, the going price for hemp last year was between $5-10; Onda paid its biodynamic farmer $75. The brand is working hard to prove that this system of prioritizing the quality of its products, empowering farmers, and supporting the regeneration of the Earth can be a viable mission.

3. Agritourism India

Shri Pandurang was recently named the Father of Agritourism in India thanks to his efforts in founding Agritourism India (Agri Tourism Development Corporation India, or ATDC). Specifically, Pandurang pioneered an umbrella platform promoting authentic farm stays at hand-selected properties engaged with his belief in sustainable farming practices, harnessing tourism to support this movement. The offer of farm stay experiences distributes wealth year-round into the lesser-visited villages in the state, enabling families to celebrate their culture and sell produce at an increased price.

The concept of agritourism is very simple: urban tourists go to the farmer’s home, live like a farmer, engage in farming activities, experience the bullock cart, tractor ride, fly kites, eat authentic food, wear traditional clothes, understand the local culture, enjoy the folk songs and dance, buy fresh farm produce – and in turn, the farmer maintains home and farm hygiene, greets new tourists, sells his farm produce at a better price, and earns a livelihood all year round.

In 2007, ATDC launched training and skills development programs with Maharashtra State Agri Tourism Vistar Yojana, with the first 52 farmers selected from Maharashtra. This agritourism model has been replicated in 628 agritourism centers in 310 villages across 30 districts in Maharashtra, helping to conserve and enhance the village environment, village traditions and culture, customs, village arts, and handicrafts. The agritourism model gives visitors an authentic farm stay experience by showcasing village culture, agriculture, and traditions that have helped gain for farmers sustainable supplementary income sources and generated local employment.

The ATDC surveys from 2018 to 2020 show that 400,000, 530,000, 700,000 tourists have visited these centers respectively, generating 35.79 million Indian rupees to farmers’ families, generating jobs for women and youth in the rural communities. This creates a win-win situation not only for the farmers or the tourists but also for the government. The farmer is happy to stay in the farm and the tourist is satisfied to buy farm-fresh produce.

4. Mashpi Lodge

At the forefront of rainforest protection, the 24-room, glass-fronted Mashpi Lodge is a center of conservation and biodiversity research that continues to break grounds in sustainability. The lodge is located in the heart of the Mashpi Reserve, in the Andean Chocó cloud forest, and was bought in 2006 by Roque Sevilla, the visionary creator of Mashpi Lodge, to prevent the nature reserve falling subject to deforestation. Mashpi Lodge was subsequently built off-site to minimise the negative environmental impact on surrounding biodiversity, before being airlifted into the cloud forest. Sevilla set about re-educating those that had been contracted to deforest the region, offering them work at Mashpi Lodge and increasing community engagement, and the hotel that was founded on the concept of conservation and sustainability opened in 2012.

First and foremost, Mashpi Lodge is a leading example of sustainability in the tourism industry; it is a protected space where the line blurs between what’s green outside and inside. Guests can reconnect with nature in its purest form and get involved with research and conservation efforts, learning how to be a guardian of the forest.

Guests at Mashpi have the chance to join conservationists in the lab to learn more about the data, and head out for guided hikes, birdwatching excursions, and night walks to spot particular species. The hotel has recently launched the MashpiLab in Quito, an investigation and development lab oriented towards exploring the culinary potential of the Andean Chocó region. The purpose is to generate knowledge, value, and to highlight the native forest species and their diverse flavors. At the Lab, chefs bring back newly discovered ingredients, such as the Guayusa plant and the Chicle fruit, and experiment to create unique culinary dishes set to appear on the menu at Mashpi. Guests will be able to visit the MashpiLab, sample new ingredients, and see the chefs at work in Quito as well as join experts in the forest on community-led cultural and gastronomic forest-to-table experiences.

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