Paradigm Change? Agroecological Vegetables in Argentina

Trends / Sustainability
Federico Roales
Dec 7, 2021
Who produces the food we serve at our table? Who owns the land, and how is it cultivated? Which products are used during the harvest? Who makes up the distribution chain? And finally: how do all these factors impact the final price of a single tomato?
Although still in its embryonic stage, there is a glimpse of intention among certain Argentine consumers to redefine the paradigm of food production and distribution.

Aligned with the environmentalist mandate and hand‑in‑hand with the revaluation of small regional producers, alternative models are beginning to emerge in the way we conceive the food we eat every day. It seems that the agro‑industrial model promoted since the 1990s, based on genetically modified seeds and agrochemicals applied to the transgenic1 soybean harvesting, is hitting its limit.
According to INTA2 (National Institute of Agricultural Technology), the demand for agroecological fruits & vegetables bags had doubled in Argentinian urban areas, mostly thanks to word‑of‑mouth—they don’t advertise, except on social media. These bags imply direct sales from the producer to the consumer throughout different social economy distributors, who promote fairness on the final price: it arises from a mutual consensus between producers, consumers, and retailers. In addition, they aim to generate transparency about the production processes to clarify who produces the food3.

Practicing agroecology involves a different understanding of the relationship between humans and nature and prioritizes the ecological development that occurs within the system itself: harvesting the right products for each season of the year and minimizing external fertilizers4. One of the pillars of this activity is to promote and democratize a model of familiar agroecology, looking to overcome a chronic deficiency of access to land in Argentina, where only 2% of the territory produces 70% of the food consumed daily5.
The growth of these alternatives is not casual: it is closely related to consumer demands. Although meat and animal products are one of the main exports in Argentina, according to our Visual GPS Research 40% of Argentinian consumers declared that they eat less meat and more plant‑based food in the last year to support sustainable practices. And they expect brands to support this commitment: 1 in 2 Argentinian consumers think that a company should educate people about best practices in sustainability.
"Visualizing and making food production processes visible has an impact on consumers' purchasing decisions."
Our customers seem to have understood consumers’ desire: searches for “Huerta” (Orchard) (+1700%) or “Ecología” (Ecology) (+350%) have grown exponentially in Argentina over the last year. However, less than 1% of the most commonly‑used visuals show the cultivation and the production processes (from the soil to the table) of the food we eat.

We should bear in mind that sustainable practices have no way back. In the upcoming years, consumers will pay close attention to the journey that raw materials take before reaching them and will prioritize those brands that can make their practices transparent by explaining their cooperation towards environmental conservation. This becomes essential in the way food is shown in imagery: whether for cooking, shopping or delivery, the context suggests that visualizing and making food production processes visible has an impact on consumers' purchasing decisions.
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