2,680 kilograms of organic vegetables every month – this is not the output of a food company, but the urban farm at the Sao Bernardo do Campo plant of Mercedes-Benz do Brasil. As one of the 22 project members, Juliana Soares Martins has worked on realizing this unique farm, which opened in November 2019. We talked to her about her personal motivation, the origins the idea and its benefits for the environment.
Arugula, spinach, watercress and chicory – how do you get the idea of growing vegetables in a vehicle factory?
It all started when our Vice President Operations Carlos Santiago and his family visited a shopping mall in Belo Horizonte. There, an urban farm from the startup “BeGreen” was set up. This must have made a lasting impression on him. Very soon after this day, he agreed with BeGreen CEO Giuliano Bittencourt to build up such an urban farm within our factory.
What is the concept of the Urban Farm?
We used an empty area at our factory in Sao Bernardo do Campo to build a new greenhouse. There we grow various types of vegetables - currently including small salads, arugula, spinach and chicory, as well as herbs such as parsley, mint, coriander or sage. Soon, we will add tomatoes and aubergines. The majority of the harvest is processed by our plant restaurants. We always have fresh and all-organic vegetables and herbs. Employees can also buy food from the farm and take it home to prepare meals with their families. We provide food donations to charitable organizations, as well.
Who takes care of planting and harvesting?
We have a project group of 22 employees who are directly or indirectly involved in the project. We at Mercedes-Benz do Brasil provide the land within the plant. BeGreen is responsible for the cultivation and harvest with five employees working direct in our plant..
What is your personal job within the project, Mrs. Martins?
In the urban farm project, I am assisting in the process of obtaining documents necessary to comply with legal environmental requirements. I also take part in life cycle analyses to determine the benefits for the environment.
At the Daimler Environmental Leadership Award 2020 the urban farm project won second place in the category "Best Environmental Management Project”. What are its biggest advantages from an environmental point of view?
Let me give you two examples. First: CO2 emissions. Because we are growing the foods less than 100 meters away from where they are processed and consumed, we do not need long-distance transports. This way, we reduce up to 35.4 tons of CO2 emissions per year. That’s as much 47 trees neutralize in an entire year.
Second: water consumption. Our water system is based on BeGreen’s approach on the technology of Aquaponics, which combines growing plants in the water and cultivating fish using their excrements as plant fertilizers. In this process, the water is used over and over again. This cycle allows us to use about 90 percent less water if compared to a regular farm. The production of a kilogram of lettuce, for example, requires 237 liters of water in regular farming. Our farm only needs 25 liters. This way, we save nearly six million liters of water per year, enough to supply 31 families for one year.
What motivates you personally to get involved in sustainability projects?
I think it is important to live sustainably and protect the environment. For example, I try to use as little water as possible, recycle our waste and, as possible, buy unprocessed food. I also grow a few fruit and vegetables in my own garden. Furthermore, I support social projects in my neighborhood and go to schools to show the children how to live in an environmentally conscious way. Because I think it is important to convince others of the importance of this topic.
Urban farming is something special because...
"… it offers a perfect combination of quality life and environmental protection."
Sustainable action to me is...
"… a lifestyle."
My vision is...
"… to make Mercedes-Benz do Brasil a synonym of sustainability for everyone who moves the world."