The International Day for Biological Diversity today addresses the theme: "Our biodiversity, our food, our health". UN Secretary-General António Guterres warns us: "Biological diversity is vital for human health and well-being. I urge all - governments, businesses and civil society - to take urgent action to protect and sustainably manage the fragile and vital web of life on our one and only planet."
In a world where food security and self-sufficiency challenges are critical, biodiversity is essential. Veolia's mission of "resourcing the world" also means preserving biodiversity, which provides the raw materials, food, drinking water and molecules that are essential for human health.
At the press day organized by Veolia in February 2018, the Group’s Chairman and CEO Antoine Frérot tackled the issue: “How do we feed 9 billion people in 2040?” Veolia's businesses are directly connected to natural environments (water, air, soil). They help to protect the environment by, for example, putting back clean water into rivers thanks to wastewater treatment, or by limiting the pollution of soil and aquatic environments by collecting and treating household and industrial waste. Given demographic growth and the explosion of the middle classes, world food production will have to increase by 50% by 2050.
Veolia's solutions for preserving biodiversity:
Develop urban farming
In a carbon-free era production has to be closer to the point of consumption and new systems of agricultural production need to be developed in the heart of cities. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), urban agriculture, which already feeds 800 million urban dwellers around the world, will bring food security to the spreading urban areas. This is a strategic sector for Veolia, which is supporting pilot projects and anticipating the future development of its businesses. Some examples:
“CultiCime” in the “Parisculteurs” program run by Paris: 1,000 m2 are in production on the roof of a shopping centre in Aubervilliers (Île-de-France) creating 12 jobs. A project developed by the "Espaces" association which tries to get people back into work and is supported by the Veolia Foundation.
In Marseille, a participatory urban farm installed on wasteland on the L2 bypass is developing a local offer of organic market garden produce. A project run by the Heko Permaculture association, supported by the Veolia Foundation.
“Veolia’s Fertile Cities”, in Lille: a pilot farm for bio-intensive permaculture micro-market gardening cultivates 420 different varieties on a 6,000 m2 plot. These intensive crops on small surfaces use compost to nourish the soil and preserve a microfauna that increases fertility and biodiversity.
The circular economy of nutrients
In Germany, Veolia has developed a sludge dehydration and anaerobic digestion technology, which makes it possible to recover phosphorus from municipal wastewater: an essential nutrient for life, phosphorus is an agricultural fertilizer. In a short circuit, this technology recycles phosphorus for agricultural use.
In Europe, Yara and Veolia signed a partnership to develop the circular nutrient economy in the food and agricultural production chains. Ammonia is recycled from green waste and sewage sludge to produce sodium nitrate, which is used to treat wastewater.
The food resources of the future
- In France and Malaysia, Veolia partners the startups Mutatec and Entofood: the larvae of Hermetia illucens (or the black soldier fly) feed on food waste. Entofood produces oil, high-protein flours and organic fertilizers from these larvae. This bioconversion avoids feeding farmed fish with other fish or with protein grown at the expense of food crops or forests.
An urban aquaponics farm in Brussels: this type of culture combines fish and plants in circular models of energy, water and biodiversity management.