Although they are often overshadowed by the agricultural giants that drive Brazil’s export-based economy, Tomás Abrahão believes that small farmers are the country’s future, especially when it comes to organic food.
Having spent time working with small farmers in Bangladesh, Abrahão returned to São Paulo with a mission: to create a business to raise the status of family-run agriculture.
That’s why he created Raízs, an internet-based service that allows city dwellers to order quality organic products directly from small farms. Raízs users can see photos of the produce and read the stories of the producers.
“We show the entire route of the food and even take consumers to the countryside to meet the producers,” says Abrahão. “It’s about valorizing people through food.”
Raízs was the grand prize winner at the São Paulo Creator Awards, sponsored by WeWork. As he was standing onstage with the six business venture finalists, Abrahão learned that his company had won $360,000.
When a judge asked a question about whether the organic food he works with is certified, Abrahão revealed his passion for the topic: “Organic food shouldn’t have to be certified. Food that contains pesticides should be.”
The aim of the São Paulo-based company is to create ties between the consumer and the producer while meeting the growing demand for organic food and ensuring sustainable practices.
Raízs users can browse the products available from 68 family farmers and put together their own baskets, or they can sign up for one of three available weekly delivery plans. Produce is picked the day it is ordered and delivered the next day.
While many large agricultural companies are more focused on exports, family farmers produce 70 percent of the food that Brazilians eat, according to the latest data from the country’s Ministry of Agriculture.
“Small producers have such an important role in Brazil, but they are mostly hidden,” says Abrahão.
Brazil is the largest user of pesticides in the world, and a bill currently in National Congress would allow the use of even more, a measure that is being pushed by Brazil’s powerful farming lobby.
“While other countries are reducing their use of pesticides, we are increasing ours,” says Abrahão.
As a result, the desire for organic products has increased in recent years in Brazil. About 500 products are now available through Raízs — from fruits and vegetables from small farmers to jellies and granola from small urban producers. It sells more than three tons of products per month.
By cutting out the supermarket, users get cheaper products and farm families get a larger share of the profits.
“Your food isn’t just food,” says Abrahão. “It has a face, it has roots, and it has a story.”