The lack of representation of women in rural areas not only impacts the development of the entrepreneurial ecosystem but also hinders many women from fully realizing their potential. To address this issue and enhance the position of women in the agri-food industry, the Empowering Women in Agrifood (EWA) program was initiated.
The EWA program is organized by Lean Startup Croatia in collaboration with EIT Food. It is a support program designed for early-career female entrepreneurs to develop sustainable businesses. Launched to achieve gender equality and encourage women to take on leadership roles in the agri-food industry, the 6-month entrepreneurial incubation program in Croatia involves the participation of 10 entrepreneurs. One of them is Naomi Sarah Bosch, the founder of the startup Plentiful Lands. This is her story.
Plentiful Lands: The story behind the project
“Why did you return to Croatia? Why didn’t you stay in Germany after your studies?” People often ask me. My answer is very subjective; as Blaise Pascal once said: “The heart has its reasons that reason does not know.”
However, as an agronomy engineer, my heart aches every time I see the vast uncultivated areas in Croatian villages. Croatia is ecologically rich, and so many mouths could still be fed with nutritious Croatian products. For example, only 40% of the domestic demand for fruits is cultivated in Croatia. Add to that the numerous ecological challenges we face globally today: soil degradation, loss of biodiversity, billions of tons of waste…
Fortunately, as more people become aware of these issues, the demand for organically produced food is increasing. The European Union aims to increase the share of organic farming to 25% by 2030. People crave healthy food that also respects the Earth.
Mission of Plentiful Lands
In search of solutions and my contribution to a more sustainable future, in 2019, I started writing about agriculture, faith, and sustainability on my blog, Plentiful Lands. Now it’s my time to put theory into practice.
Here, on Croatian soil, I want to sow the seeds of my regenerative enterprise. Regenerative agriculture uses methods that not only conserve natural resources (like organic farming) but also enrich the soil with humus, making it more fertile and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. One of the goals of regenerative agriculture is to increase biodiversity on the farm itself. Since it’s a “nature-based solution,” regenerative agriculture can help address multiple issues at once: climate change, soil crises, and biodiversity loss. As every ecologist knows, everything in nature is interconnected.
Specifically, my goal is to cultivate aromatic herbs, flowers, and fruits in a silvopastoral system (regenerative wooded pasture). It is a system where annual crops, trees (fruit trees in my case), and animals (sheep in my case) are simultaneously grown. Such a system has many advantages: trees prevent soil erosion and provide food. Nutrients from sheep manure return to the soil, nourishing plants and creating additional humus. Sheep, in turn, benefit from the shade and security provided by the trees. Such wooded pastures are also extremely rich in biodiversity!
To reduce waste, which has already reached catastrophic proportions, my products such as jams and juices will be sold in reusable glass jars. Because even though glass can theoretically be recycled, the recycling process still uses unnecessary energy.
Vision of Plentiful Lands
As a complete story, Plentiful Lands will be a place where people can taste and see my products grown according to regenerative principles without waste. But more than that, it will be a place where people can learn about sustainable agriculture, composting, permaculture, wild edible and medicinal plants, and the connection between faith and ecology. Through my wild plant workshops, various courses, and spiritual exercises based on the Christian tradition, visitors will learn practical skills and gain a completely new view of the world around them.
Plentiful Lands will also be a place where people can develop a new love for nature and experience it with all their senses. Because we can solve our ecological crisis only if we are aware of it and care about nature. I’m sure you’ve experienced it yourself: once you establish a personal, emotional connection with a specific place or nature in general, there is a greater chance that you will change your behavior to have a positive impact on the Earth. Therefore, I believe that education and direct experiences in nature are crucial for fostering ecological awareness.
While currently planning to build my estate from scratch, I will continue my work as a writer and contribute inspirational articles to magazines and companies. In 2023, just before planting the first trees, I will publish my first book on sustainability and faith in the German language. Long-term, my wish is to create new jobs in rural areas of Croatia. In the meantime, I will continue with my wild plant workshops and collaborate with like-minded individuals, businesses, and publications in Croatia and beyond.
Value of the EWA Program and Next Steps
The Empowering Women in Agrifood program helped me gain a crystal-clear vision of what I want. I got countless new ideas to try and learned strategies to build a business sustainably and successfully. As I ventured into entrepreneurial waters, it was precisely what I needed at that moment. But more than that, the program gave me the confidence that my dreams are good and realistic.
With the incredibly supportive motivation of my mentor, I dared to take steps I wouldn’t have taken otherwise. From conducting interviews as part of my market research, and initiating potential collaborations, to professionally presenting my ideas to completely unfamiliar people. It was a challenging experience. However, the fact that participants and mentors of the EWA and Lean Startup Croatia programs believe in me gave me the courage to continue.
One beautiful, sunny autumn day, I worked on my financial plan.
With the help of my mentor, I wrestled with my massive Excel spreadsheet. The numbers seemed daunting to me. But as I later watched the colorful leaves falling that day, things started falling into place for me too. I will succeed, I thought to myself. I will find my way; I am sure of it.
If you want to follow my journey as I sow seeds, plant trees, write my book, conduct workshops, and inspire people to live more sustainably, join my newsletter or become part of my community on social media (Facebook/Instagram).
Now is the time to build a regenerative world. Seed by seed.
Watch Naomi Bosch’s workday in the video.
About the EIT Food Initiative
EIT Food is the largest and most active global community for food innovation. It strongly encourages innovation intending to build a food system that produces healthy and sustainable food.
Supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), an EU body established in 2008 to promote innovation and entrepreneurship across Europe, the EIT Food initiative invests in projects, organizations, and individuals who share their goals for a healthy and sustainable food system. Simultaneously, by enabling innovation potential in companies and universities, they encourage startups in the agri-food sector to develop new technologies and products. They equip entrepreneurs and experts with the skills needed to transform the food system, putting consumers at the center of their work, and helping to build trust in the origin of their food.
EIT Food is one of the nine innovation communities established by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), an independent EU body.
Learn more at www.eitfood.eu or follow them on social media: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram.