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Organic food and farming – Header image (photo)

Organic food and farming

Impact measures

The organically managed land on the farms which Triodos Bank finances could produce the equivalent of just over 19 million meals in 2013, or enough food to provide a sustainable diet for 17,670 people during the year (2012: 16,800).

We finance 29,771 hectares of organic farmland across Europe. This means one football-pitch sized piece of farmland for every 10.4 customers, each one producing enough for 383 meals per year.

Organic food and farming – Impact measures (graphic)

Methodology

We include 100% of the impact when we co-finance a project, except where there is a concern that this skews these results unfairly. If it is not possible to pull 100% of the data required, we measure at least 80% of the projects in the portfolio, create an average for this figure and calculate the figure for the remaining 20%.

Care-farms are only included when their main activity and income is farming, with only an element of care.

The Ecological Footprint method, developed by the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF), has been used to estimate the total number of people that could be fed from the organic land farmed as a result of Triodos Bank finance. This is a theoretical approach that shows the link between the diets that people eat and the farmland that provides their food.

The Ecological Footprint (EF) is a measure of the global hectares (gHa) associated with any resource consuming economic activity. WWF have estimated the EF for many countries as part of the WWF Living Planet project. They estimate that for the whole of the EU an average of 1.17gHa of cropland and 0.19gHa of grazing land are required to feed each person for one year from the farmed land, in Europe and beyond. They provide EF estimates for each of the five countries where Triodos Bank finances organic farming. These data have been used to estimate the number of people that could be fed three meals each day from the whole organically farmed area of the farms financed by Triodos Bank in Europe.

The ‘Impact per customer’ calculations used throughout the annual report are made on the basis of the average deposit per customer across its five branches. This is then matched with the same proportion of Triodos Bank’s total impact in a given sector. There were a total of 517,000 customers at the end of 2013. A football pitch is assumed to cover approximately 0.6 hectares.

Our vision and activities

Organic food and farming lending

Percentage of our loans to the organic sector

Organic food and farming – 5.3% of our loans to the organic sector (pie chart)
  • 3.2% to organic farming
  • 2.1% to organic food businesses

Organic food lending
by subsector

Organic food lending by subsector (pie chart)

Organic farming lending by subsector

Organic farming lending by subsector (pie chart)
% derived from data at the time of publication

Our vision on organic food and farming

Our relationship with the soil and the earth requires a systemic perspective.

We can no longer afford to keep a world view that thinks of agricultural land as the starting point for a limitless process of extraction. Rather, agriculture needs to be seen within the context of a natural system. This system includes nutrients, water, biodiversity, animal welfare and social conditions.

The impact of farming

We need farmers who can adopt methods that conserve and recycle natural resources. We want to help create a vibrant and diverse agricultural sector with a larger number of smaller farms, more closely connected to local communities and local consumers.

Respecting animal welfare is a fundamental aspect of how we interact with the world around us and a core principle of organic farming.

Organic farming has subscribed itself to safeguarding and respecting nature. As such, having higher animal welfare standards than in conventional farming is one of its major goals.

Respecting animal rights comes out of the belief that we humans have a responsibility as dominating species on this planet. Furthermore, there is the scientific evidence that higher animal welfare standards in organic farming also mean healthier produce for humans (e.g. less antibiotics used). High animal welfare standards mean healthier animals, and positive benefits for people who can enjoy food which doesn’t rely on the use of artificial hormones or antibiotics.

Our priorities

We focus on supporting farmers who demonstrate the benefits of sustainable and organic agricultural principles.

We also want to stimulate the creation of more sustainably farmed land by financing the conversion of land from conventional to organic approaches. We also want to support the healthy development of the wider food sector through financing food producers, distributors, retailers and caterers who demonstrate their commitment to sustainable food and who meet the growing demand for organic food.

Our activities

Organic farming doesn’t use artificial fertilisers and pesticides, recognises the importance of biodiversity and integrates the highest standards of animal welfare.

All of Triodos Bank’s agricultural loans are to farms that are either certified organic, in conversion to organic production or demonstrate a clear alignment with those principles and practices. In addition we lend to retail, wholesale, distribution and catering business who supply organic food, drinks and other products. Through the funds managed by Triodos Investment Management, we also support organic and fair-trade food producers in emerging markets.

 

Organic agricultural land (hectares) and share of total agricultural land in Europe 2011

Organic agricultural land (hectares) and share of total agricultural land in Europe 2011 (map)

Source: FiBL

Triodos Bank finances 29,771 hectares of organic farm land across Europe – equivalent of around 60% of the total organic farm land area in the Netherlands.

Case study

The Hühnermobil® – Innovation to expand the potential for organic poultry farming
 

Organic food and farming – Case study The Hühnermobil® (photo)

Concerted effort and new thinking

“In our case, the loan by Triodos Bank functioned as a catalyst for our business. Triodos Bank believed in our business idea right from the start. To be sure, we have to earn money, so does Triodos Bank. We treat each other with respect and work together in a constructive manner. Instead of seeing the bank as a foreign body, it is part of our work.”

Iris Weiland, company manager

Due to the increasing demand for organic produce, the need to pay attention to animal welfare standards in organic farming is growing. Already, scandals are becoming more frequent and are damaging the sector’s overall reputation. This calls for a concerted effort by all organic stakeholders – there is the risk that organic farming starts to follow the patterns of conventional farming.

Secondly, organic farming has always faced certain inherent dilemmas when it comes to animal welfare, e.g. in poultry keeping. These dilemmas call for new thinking and also the development of innovative techniques.

Developing an improved concept

In 1990, Iris Weiland, who holds a degree in agro-engineering, and her former husband Maximilian Weiland founded an agricultural business. This business, located in a Hessian town, was certified according to the standards of Bioland, an organic farmer-association.

In 1992 the couple started to keep laying hens. In a short period of time, siltation and contamination due to poultry manure infested the surrounding area of the hen-coop. Since chickens have the inborn need of feeling protected, free range hens spend 80 percent of their activities in a 30 metre zone around their coop.

The silted up soil has a negative effect on the health of the animals, through worm-infestation and infections as well as diarrhea, which makes medication necessary. EU regulations on organic farming insist that, in the case of certain medication, eggs are not marketed for a defined period of time. For an organic business that can mean a significant loss of earnings.

Weilands knew the answer to the siltation problem: by literally mobilizing the coop pasture can be regularly switched when the need arises. In this way, the hens always have a fresh green area to pick and to scratch on.

But at that time the mobile coops on the market were neither suitable for bigger flocks nor could they be moved in weekly cycles. So, together with consultants, Weilands set about the construction of an improved mobile hen-coop.

The core of their construction concept called The Hühnermobil® is a closed floor slab, which enables the relocation of the coop in less than 15 minutes. Because the Weilands couldn’t find a coop building company, they built the first prototype themselves in 2002 and developed it further over the next few years.

The Hühnermobil® allows farmers to use meadows with scattered fruit trees as well as harvested or fallow land with grass lay growth for poultry keeping. It facilitates animal-welfare and due to the amount of green fodder eaten by the hens, it even has a positive effect on the quality and taste of the eggs.

Helping to accelerate the business

With the help of a loan from Triodos Bank in Germany, the company was able to start a series production of the Hühnermobil® and could accelerate the development of the business. Now, it offers three different Hühnermobile® for between 225 and 1200 hens and has recently added a Hähnchenmobil for cockerel.

Over the past three years, Iris Weiland’s business has grown rapidly. 160 Hühnermobile® are targeted for production in 2014. A number have already been exported to Northern Italy, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Austria. Customers of the Hühnermobil® are mainly organic farmers, only one fifth are conventional farmers.

Solution for a central dilemma in organic farming

Providing a loan to catalyze this development will have an impact beyond the finance that we alone provide for farmers to acquire the Hühnermobils®. The demand for innovative solutions for free range poultry management has grown substantially since ‘battery’ chicken production was been prohibited by EU law.

Organic approaches to livestock rearing can play a vital role in combating the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, which is developing as a consequence of the overuse of antibiotics. In order to manage this kind of system efficiently and cost-effectively for poultry farming requires innovative new approaches.

Our loan client has found a solution to a central dilemma in organic farming and is receiving a lot of attention from the organic sector, creating the potential for sector-wide impact in the future.

Environment

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