The R-Evolution of Sustainability
An inquiry and commitment to what is means to be REGENERATIVE
as a vertically integrated business and agricultural model.
Let’s be clear: we are at a global tipping point. Our climate is in a state of crisis, our oceans and air are heavily polluted, we have poisoned our food and water systems with chemicals, indigenous communities are disappearing, rural farms are failing and malnourished (over) populations turn towards GMO crops, conventional agriculture, and the pharmaceutical industry to survive. Not to mention the growing list of accelerated natural disasters, sinking land masses, melting ice caps, social and nuclear warfare and imminent global warming.
There is no “Sustainability” within the existing system. Our planetary carbon budget is on the verge of depletion and our industry-enforced, extractive, toxic practices are what led us here in the first place. We can not sustain where and how we are if we want humanity to survive.
We are nearing the final hour but there is still enough time remaining to activate and integrate a regenerative model, which Mikuna feels has the potential to replenish and heal Earth on a cellular and planetary level. Now is the time to unite and take action: as consumers, creators, farmers, educators and entrepreneurs, to put carbon back into the soil and to align with the rhythms of nature to restore our waters, air and lands.
Although ‘regenerative agriculture’ is gaining popularity in our contemporary lexicon, it goes back to the beginning. Regenerative implies the ability to sustain indefinitely. This happens in the natural ecosystems: forests, plains, oceans, mountains, deserts… each with a life cycle that recycles itself over and over again. Ever resilient, regenerative agriculture is in essence the basis of nature. Thankfully, the need is strong enough now for us to look at all options to save ourselves and as it turns out, Nature holds the answer.
Mikuna Foods LLC is committed to pioneering and leading the field as a regenerative company.
Our mission is to provide consumers with the world's purest, nutrient-dense plant-based foods while executing leading strategies in consumer transparency, environmental protection, innovation, and community stewardship.
As a vertically integrated company rooted in regenerative agriculture, we hope to provide solutions for our global food system and secure the safety of our future generations.
We are nowhere near perfect and are refining our approach constantly. However we hope this manifesto may serve as a starting point where and how to incorporate the regenerative model into our current system. We have focused our endeavors on these five pillars:
Regenerative for The SOIL
It begins and ends with the Soil.
Soil houses a greater number of organisms underground than exist above ground. These Soil Biota include microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, and algae), soil animals (protozoa, nematodes, arthropods, mites, insects, spiders, earthworms) and plants living completely in or on the soil.
It is within this soil web where microorganisms mine hundreds of minerals from clay, silt, and other organic matter and combine it with air and water to form the components they need to take form and sustain their life. These microorganisms are consumed by other organisms which in turn are consumed by yet bigger organisms and so on.... The by-products; excretions and skeletal components become the nutrients assimilable by plants. Plants themselves cannot mine minerals from rock - it is the microbiota that does. Hence, a soil rich in living organisms (micro and macro) provides the infrastructure for plants to grow to their full potential - which in turn provide a vast range of beneficial functions.
This leads us to CHOCHO, our Ancient Super Bean. Chocho has traditionally been used for soil restoration. Farmers have co-planted and used chocho as a natural soil enhancer for crops such as corn, quinoa, and potatoes in remote areas of the Andes mountains for centuries. This was actually how MIKUNA’S founder Ricky Echanique first discovered Chocho - he noticed it was being used as a companion crop and that soil in which chocho has been cultivated was significantly more vital than soil without.
When planted, this legume fixes nitrogen back into the ground and revitalizes the microorganisms below, leaving the soil more fertile and nutrient dense with each harvest. Nitrogen is crucial as it is a major component of chlorophyll, the pigment through which plants absorb energy from sunlight (via photosynthesis). Nitrogen is also a key component of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Without amino acids plants would not be able to maintain their structure. Likewise for the human body. The more nitrogen we fix into the soil, the stronger our roots, leaves and limbs can grow.
Healthy soil has an inspiring spectrum of benefits - which we are only beginning to unearth. Soil is home for the billions of microorganisms which provides the base of the food chain for life on Earth. Regenerative agricultural practices work to rebuild our rapidly disappearing topsoil, reduce pollution from toxic agro-chemicals and simultaneously sequester carbon out of the atmosphere and back into the ground. The healthier the soil, the more adaptable to environmental stressors (fire, floods, disease). In 2014, researchers at the Rodale Institute released a study that estimates that if current farmland shifted to regenerative organic practices, 100% of annual global CO2 emissions could be sequestered in the soil.
The solution to our global climate and ecological crisis is literally RIGHT BENEATH OUR FEET.
The solution to our global climate and ecological crisis is literally RIGHT BENEATH OUR FEET.
Regenerative for The BODY
One of the blessings of CHOCHO is that while the cultivation of the crop restores our soil, the byproduct is a miraculously nutrient-rich bean which happens to contain over 54% protein by weight. Chocho is one of the highest sources of protein in the world, contains complete amino acid chains and is rich in omegas, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin E and dietary fiber. Most importantly, it is a pure, unaltered whole food plant protein.
In effect, CHOCHO regenerates our soil and our cells.
This loops us back to the idea - CHANGE BEGINS WITHIN.
Within our minds, within our bodies, and radiates outward
The bottom line: like plants, our bodies need protein. Protein is a critical building block for bones, muscles, skin, cartilage blood. It helps the body produce enzymes, hormones, build and repair tissues. Protein is crucial to complete nutrition. And if we want to work to regenerate the planet, we need to be strong. Energetically and physically.
There are a reported 687.8 million malnourished people in the world and this number grows daily. Chocho expands our food diversity and offers an alternate source of protein and nutrients. To us, this is a hopeful step towards feeding the 7.8 billion+ humans on earth, in a regenerative way.
Mikuna looked to our Andean ancestors to develop a signature process of soaking, sprouting, and lightly toasting the chocho to make the bean fully bio-available. This means the body can easily digest and fully absorb the essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and protein - all of which are crucial to brain and immune function, digestion, elimination and overall health.
Truly, A Superior Source of Plant Protein.
Regenerative for The COMMUNITY
As we nourish and heal ourselves, we can begin to nourish and heal those around us.
The word MIKUNA comes from the Kichwa concept, meaning:
Feed Yourself with Love
We hold this at the center of everything we do. Chocho has been cultivated, with love, by inhabitants of the Andes mountains for more than 10,000 years and we are honored to continue this lineage. Love of the land, love of ancestral foods and Andean tradition are the driving force behind Mikuna.
As a vertically integrated company, Mikuna is committed to reconnecting the consumer with the source. We do this by empowering a network of small scale farmers to grow chocho, with reverence for mother nature and an inherited understanding of indigenous agriculture. For us, the people and history behind the production are just as important as the product itself.
We are proud and honored to work with fifth and sixth generations of Ecuadorian farmers. Currently Mikuna has provided jobs for 350 Ecuadorian locals - a majority of our employees are women.
Standards at our farm and onsite processing facility are upheld at the highest: social fairness, excellent wages, working conditions, accountability, transparency, equality are our priority.
Every day, as we work to make this incredible source of bioavailable protein available to the world, we are securing the livelihood of Ecuadorian farmers, their traditions and families - which are on the brink of being wiped out.
Although chocho is in finite supply and can only be cultivated in the Andes under high elevations and fairly specific conditions, we feel it can serve as an example crop to open the doorway to recognizing the vast spectrum of benefits of regenerative agriculture. Mikuna can be an example for others wanting to make this shift towards regenerative agriculture, land stewardship and entrepreneurship.
The cultivation of chocho sinks carbon back into the soil, restores farmlands and protects the surrounding environment, and ultimately revitalizes local economies, inspiring confidence in Ecuadorian tradition and agriculture and securing the future of generations of farmers and land stewards.
As we shift the power back into the hands of the farmers and rural communities in Ecuador and observe the results, we hope to set an example on how to honor and integrate the indigenous ways into the web of modern life, for the people in Cotopaxi and our extended Mikuna community.
From the PEOPLE, for the PEOPLE, for the PLANET.
Regenerative for The PLANET
We are committed to preserving and renewing our natural resources and ecosystems, from the micro to macro.
At this point, it is pretty safe to say that everything on earth is connected. The most urgent priority for us is to drastically decrease carbon emissions and implement regenerative agriculture immediately to return carbon and vitality to the soil to steer us away from the tipping point of global warming but it does not end there. Regeneration can occur on all levels. Below are a few areas we have targeted in our endeavors.
REDUCE - REUSE - REPURPOSE - REGENERATE
Our company prioritizes low impact, waste-free awareness from the farm to finished product.
Chocho is one of if not the most land and water efficient sources of protein on the planet. This drought tolerant legume has the capability to significantly impact the reduction of CO2 emissions and water usage, as it yields one of the highest protein outputs per acre of any crop or animal product. Chocho plants are grown high in the Andes mountains between 11k and 14k feet, in mineral rich volcanic soil that has been minimally tilled. Chochos seeds are planted in January and February, given little to no amendments and are watered solely from rainstorms. Dried chocho pods are harvested at the end of September and October, the discarded plant matter from the harvest is returned to the soil and the fields are left to rest and regenerate for the next three months until planting season begins. Harvested chocho beans are brought into the on-site facilities to be sorted, cleaned, soaked and prepared for consumption. The water we bring in to soak the chocho is returned to the farms and spread as a natural insect deterrent. Very little chocho is deemed unusable but whatever is not used is returned to the soil on the farms.
Bananas, by comparison Address food waste:
In Ecuador there are 20 tons of bana
Thus, the regenerative life cycle of (chocho) life continues.
We keep our production facilities localized on the farm and outsource or partner as needed, with priority given to local individuals and businesses.
We consciously use natural fibers and recycled materials for our packaging and encourage our customers to reuse our aluminum tins as many times as they can and to recycle when / if they can no longer be repurposed. We have implemented a BULK program which allows our customers to order products in bulk and reduce waste. This being said, we are constantly looking for more innovative and regenerative solutions to packaging.
AFORESTATION + REFORESTATION
We have partnered with Rainforest Alliance for the preservation of rainforest and cloud forests in Ecuador. Not only are these forest ecosystems crucial to sequestering carbon, they are home to thousands of endangered species and some of the last standing safehouses of biodiversity.
Mikuna grows Chocho on 3,000 Acres of Rainforest Alliance Approved farmland in the Sigchos region of Ecuador. We employ locals to plant, tend to, and harvest our Chocho and in doing so divert less sustainable forms of protein production (like soy and cattle) from ecologically imperiled and increasingly precious regions such as the Amazon rainforest - our planet’s lungs. By producing our Chocho regeneratively and harmoniously within the forest ecology, we reduce deforestation elsewhere while stewarding the Andean mountainsides.
Reduce - Reuse - Repurpose - Regenerate
Regenerative for The FUTURE
Our planet is at a pivotal point in Time and Space.
The repercussions from the failure of our current exploitive, extractive infrastructure is being experienced in real time, on a planetary level and will only accelerate if we continue on like this. If the global temperature rises by just 1.5 degrees celsius it is unclear whether humans will even have a future on earth.
As our ecosystems disintegrate around us we can fortunately still look to renewable energy sources and the grass-roots, regenerative model for guidance.
We must remember that as much as modern humanity seems to be working against nature, we are still a part of nature.
Our objective with Mikuna is to embrace the wisdom of our ancestors and to understand the regenerative, cyclical patterns of nature to create tangible, edible, solutions for the current global crisis and future of our planet.
We hope this manifesto and all our work might serve as a prototype that can be incorporated and improved upon by our children and the generations to come.
As Gary Snyder says,
When you get it right, pass it on.