Beautiful People Eat Ugly Fruit

The first week of the Climate-KIC Journey was spent getting a deeper understanding of climate change, innovation and entrepreneurship. We visited various businesses in and around Lisbon who work with climate change mitigation and adaption in diverse ways. Most inspiring for me was a cooperative called Fruta Feia, which means Ugly Fruit in Portuguese.

In Europe, currently 30% of the fruit and vegetables produced are thrown away due to aesthetic reasons.

Despite being of good quality and taste, carrots with 3 legs, wonky cucumbers and discoloured tomatoes are all discarded before they reach the consumer because of supermarket standards on appearance. Not only does this create waste, it also means the produce we are sold does not reflect the diversity of nature.

©Gonçalo Fonseca Fruta Feia

The Fruta Feia Cooperative has created an alternative market for these so-called ugly fruit and vegetables, which they sell to people who judge on taste and quality rather than appearance.

Working directly with farmers, Fruta Feia collects produce that supermarkets refuse to buy and sells them at pickup points in community centres across their network. At the pickup points the fruit and vegetables are divided into boxes, ready for the costumer to collect. This is done on the same day to ensure the freshness.

Fruta Feia has 3700 associated consumers, supports 150 farmers and saves around 10 tons of food waste every week.

©Gonçalo Fonseca Fruta Feia

What impressed me most about the cooperative was their commitment to fairness. Externally, they ensure that the farmers receive a good wage for their produce and that the consumers pay a fair price – which is lower than the supermarket. Internally there is no hierarchy and all members take it in turns to manage the pick up and deliver the goods. They keep costs to a minimum by using community buildings to distribute their veg boxes and rely on volunteers to help with assembly.

©Gonçalo Fonseca Fruta Feia

Despite the huge demand for their service (they currently have 7,000 people on their waiting list!) Fruta Feia is committed to sustainable growth and only opens a new delivery points if all elements of their supply chain are ready. Community is important and at the pickup points, people can meet and get to know Fruta Feia face to face. As the cooperative grows it is important this connection between the consumers and producers is not lost.

©Gonçalo Fonseca Fruta Feia

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