Two Italian managers born in 1988 know each other as kids on school desks – he becomes a manager in finance, travels far and wide in Europe; she specializes in publishing and deals with design projects while remaining in Milan.
They have become a couple in life since their youth and preferred the standard ‘living apart together’. However, the planet calls and both decide to leave their comfort zone (and the desk) to found a start-up that fights food waste by engineering an alternative food sales and processing network, thus creating circular economy and much more.
Today we will tell you about Camilla and Luca and of their new-co Bella Dentro and why they decided to devote themselves – body and soul – to the not perfect fruits and how to reduce the waste at the source.
We have already mentioned a bit of your biography and a bit of Bella Dentro (by the way, the ironic and intelligent way you tell your story in full on your Italian language site amazed me!).
What does managing your startup on a daily basis mean? Do you take us by the hand on your typical day?
Our day is marked by the calls and messages of the farmers who contact us because they have a harvest to “save”: those who have taken the hail, those who have had a drop in orders from the supermarket and now have a broccoli field close to flowering, those who have just harvested a hectare of oranges that are too small due to the drought.
These are followed by our calculations on how much we can buy / save without incurring the risk of wasting in turn (this risk is really on the agenda when dealing with fresh and perishable products), on the basis of these figures we decide how much to allocate to the laboratory processing for the production of juice and dried jams and for direct sales to the public or to companies and restaurants. Once the accounts are made and a decision is made, the logistic machine starts to get the products from Sicily / Trentino or elsewhere to our warehouse in Milan. As soon as our beloved circus characters (she means the not perfect or underweight green groceries) arrive in the city, it’s time to meet them in person, photograph them and officially present them to the public by telling who they are, where they come from, what they know and why they have been snubbed by someone else.
As per the country you go you could find a different philosophy …: the ‘life philosophies of waste’ can diverge a lot (not only by law but also in terms of sensitivity, markets and different cultures) so let’s imagine that Bella Dentro sic et simpliciter cannot be transferred elsewhere. Have I mistaken? Is there a part of truth present? Is it possible that the problem of abnormal consumption of the planet is not tackled worldwide?
The root of the problem facing Bella Dentro, or the paradigm “BEAUTIFUL = GOOD” is rooted in every corner of the globe, the canons of beauty based on markets and cultures can change, but the global consumer today is still convinced that something more beautiful or more “normal / standard” is preferable to something that is not, regardless of the flavor and organoleptic qualities of the product in question. Having said that, what makes the applicability of our project or any other on the same wave difficult is the structural diversity and logistical specificity of the supply chain (especially fruit and vegetables) at a not only global but also national and regional level.
At what point is the use of technologies for controlling the management of waste flows without having to foresee direct contact with producers? Is there any ‘lighthouse in the fog’ of best practices that you have encountered in your long journey until opening Bella Dentro?
A concrete control and monitoring system of what is wasted in the first phase of the supply chain and therefore directly in the field is completely missing; the available data are all approximate on the basis of the census of agricultural areas, a hypothesis of average production yield and the quantity of product that arrives on the central fruit and vegetable markets.
Only during the months of my direct infield research …in the fields in Romagna, Veneto and Lombardy we were able to collect concrete, albeit partial, data on what was actually wasted already in the fields for futile reasons.
A precise monitoring system would be very complex, expensive and unprofitable for those who decide to implement it.
As for best practices, there are many virtuous organizations and non-profit in Italy that deal with food waste, but in almost all cases, they deal with it from a point of view of the redistribution of surpluses and not of the effective reduction of waste. At the source.
What differentiates us in our opinion is precisely this, in addition to having an economically sustainable approach that allows us to build a project and a company capable of growing and expanding over time, increasing its impact and radius more and more.
A talent you have, the one you lack
The ability to find the comic side of everything, be it a fruit a person or a situation. It is a “talent” that has helped us and helps us a lot both in life and in work.
The talent or better, the dowry we lack is certainly patience.
We want to grow and build more and more, as quickly as possible. We struggle to think we have to wait to be able to carry out all the projects that blend in our heads.
The book and the music with you right now
Book: Frank Trentmann’s Empire of Things (it will stay with us for a long time because is an essay of almost a thousand pages!)
Music: The soundtrack of “The Broken Circle Breakdown” an indigestible film, which we would never see again, but which has given us one of our favorite records of the last few years.
Favorite food and drink
For Luca tagliatelle with meat sauce and beer, for Camilla any kind of cheese and red wine.
Despite this, given our daily lives, all we do is eat tons of imperfect fruit and misshapen vegetables (always accompanied by wine and beer, of course!).
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Sitting at the table with our children, with the dogs lying under our chairs, deciding which new types of waste and supply chains Bella Dentro will handle in the following decade.
We do not ask you what you have learned so far because it seems obvious that you have learned a lot of things (and many with the precise purpose of passing them on to others). We ask you how easy this task is to you.
Learning them was not easy but it was certainly rewarding. They are not things that can be read in books or found online, you have to leave your desk, leave Milan and go to the fields.
There are two fundamental pillars of Bella Dentro: giving the right value to unjustly rejected fruit and vegetables and giving the right value to the work of those who produce it. And to fully understand the value of both these things we had to see them, listen to them, try them, taste them.
To be updated on Bella Dentro’s activities (in Italian): http://www.belladentro.org
Italy fights food waste with a dedicated day (Zero Waste) which falls on February 5 this year