InnovAgroWoMed in Italy: discover AgroMini, an innovative start-up in the field of regenerative agriculture

Eleonora Chiri

It is April 26th 2021, the day before my thirty-fifth birthday, when I set foot again in Europe with the awareness that this time I will stay, together with my life partner and fellow startupper, my husband. We want to contribute to the regeneration of the soil of our homeland.

I am a soil microbiologist, Sicilian, expatriated twelve years ago to develop a career as a university researcher. During my research activity I learned to recognize healthy soil, to understand its fundamental importance for life, and the inexorable awareness that our soils are utterly ill. The pandemic has speeded up my inner journey that began a long time ago, motivated by the desire to contribute in a practical way to safeguarding the well-being of living beings.

The world is at a turning point, and the current times are calling for action. Local and global crises manifest themselves in a systemic way and have direct repercussions at the personal, environmental and social levels. Conventional and industrial agriculture practices represent a major problem because they destroy the natural fertility of the soil and devastate biodiversity and the climate. Furthermore, the industrialization of agriculture has disrupted rural communities and left impoverished, aged and isolated farmers to feed the world. Fortunately, agriculture itself offers us a solution: the application of regenerative agriculture practices in soil management. In fact, we can recreate healthy and fertile conditions by managing the land by following regenerative practices that improve the health of the soil, which will consequently produce food and excellent natural products.

At the end of June 2021, we moved back to Sicily. The warm, heavy air smells of uncertainty and possibility, and the desire to put ourselves out there is real. Fast forward a little over a year and a half, and today AgroMini, our innovative startup dedicated to farms, land managers and stakeholders in the agri-food sector, is a reality. AgroMini is a catalyst for the transition to regenerative agriculture, a profitable agriculture that is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable, and therefore a happy agriculture. By promoting the realization by the stakeholders of the agri-food sector that profit and care are not oxymorons, they themselves will be the amplifiers of the change that guarantees food security.

AgroMini is not exclusively the result of an individual vision. There is a lot of good will, many people, events and organizations that have supported, nourished and shaped its conception and formation. Circumstances present me with the opportunity to participate as an aspiring entrepreneur in a project funded by the ENI CBC MED program (and what a perfect timing this has been!), aimed at training and accompanying women who make their way into entrepreneurship in the agri-food sector in the Sicilian landscape. Soon, the unknown women who met in a virtual classroom will become travel companions, allies and determined supporters of the AgroMini project. CESIE, the Italian partner of InnovAgroWoMed, provided a well-equipped gym to train, strengthen and consolidate the business idea of AgroMini. The interactions with the trainees, tutors and project coordinators were genuine and motivating. Thanks to them, AgroMini started networking and were in contact with land and farm managers, and interested associations. AgroMini is growing well, to the point that its business plan was rewarded by the program with a grant which, from October 2022 to May 2023, accompanies it in its first steps.

The AgroMini offer consists of: (i) Training courses aimed at the understanding and implementation in the field of regenerative practices, soil protection and improvement, and a modern business management context. (ii) Consulting and accompaniment for farms in the transition to a regenerative management of the enterprise, with the common aim of improving the ecological, economic and social health of the client company. (iii) Monitoring he regeneration progress by integrating a wide variety of digital tools with internationally recognized ecological performance indicator methods. Thanks to its rigor, AgroMini's monitoring offer includes the accounting of the farmed carbon, namely grown in the soil. This is propaedeutic to the implementation of the sale of certified and high-quality carbon credits on the international credit market.

AgroMini's year 2022 ends in a crescendo, with a prize awarded during the RESTART business plan competition, an event organized by Confcooperative Sicilia, Fondo Sviluppo and Banca di credito cooperativo siciliano, where the most innovative and promising business ideas on the Sicilian scene were awarded. Developing AgroMini requires many resources, the effort is pressing, and the road presents bumps and detours. But the recognitions obtained by AgroMini are proof that today is the time for such an entrepreneurial reality. And together with the fundamental monetary and logistical support, the awareness that these awards confer is equally precious, to continue the long and ambitious journey that lies ahead for AgroMini ... and I can't wait to explore!

AgroMini's wish for all of us who decide to get ourselves out there is to keep the eyes on the prize…So hang on in there, ladies and dudes!