Very strong candidates competed in the 3rd NEWBIE competition for innovative new entrants in Bulgaria, organized by the Business Incubator-Gotse Delchev and the National Steering Group under the NEWBIE project. The winner is the GREEN TO GO farm.
Stefan Tsonev and Vesi Mircheva from GREEN TO GO farm grow leafy vegetables, spinach and baby spinach leaves, arugula, various types of baby salad and fresh spices. Their farm is located in the village of Chernyovo. They started with a lot of enthusiasm in 2013 with 3 ha land and had many plans and ideas. They developed, expanded and modernized the farm step by step, with hard work and perseverance. The decision to offer packaged products was a key market advantage, as at that time only few farmers delivered packed and labeled salads or spinach according to the requirements of large retail chains.
Their business model is to establish a farm close to the big city and offer fresh products, with the shortest possible time to the end user’s table. They proved that with a long-term partnership for direct sales to large stores and with a minimal carbon footprint, local agricultural products have a future on the table of the city man.
Their advantages are permanent implementation of innovation and technology, saving natural resources and environmental protection, as well as social responsibility. They invest their own savings and use a bank credit.
For 4 years they have been applying a new method for growing leafy and other vegetables, almost completely eliminating the need for herbicides, fungicides and insecticides – the seeds are laid between two layers of special paper and the bottom layer under the seed is a barrier against weeds, but allows rooting. The top layer is fine enough for the seeds to germinate and break through, but requires very good pre-treatment of the soil and soil beds for excellent results. The composition of the soil is examined annually so that there is no unnecessary fertilization.
In 2020 they applied a precision irrigation system with electronic, web-based control to save water by irrigating the right spots with the right amount of water and retaining soil moisture for as long as possible through shading nets. A “cleaning” machine effectively removes plant residues from previous harvests to prevent rotting and removes by vacuum pests and contaminants on the areas to be harvested.
The farm uses renewable energy – solar panels for water pumps during the summer season. Since April 2020, one of the most innovative systems for preserving the quality and safety of the products – BIO TURBO technology has been applied in the farm packaging workshop. By ozonation it increases the safety of the final product and slows down putrefaction processes by eliminating ethylene, viruses and bacteria, including COVID – 19.
Farm social responsibility: The new technology allows them to, with a small but more qualified staff, perform larger volumes of work and grow quality products. 15 people on permanent employment contracts and 5 to 10 people – seasonal workers who work legally according to their personal preferences on fixed-term or daily employment contracts. All the employees use the farm transport and have insurance. The working conditions are constantly improving and the staff is improving their skills by training to implement the innovation and new technology
The farm also has additional non-agricultural activity. Thanks to the partnership with PPC HRC Culinary Academy Bulgaria they organized regular meetings with current and future professional chefs, introducing them to the specifics of agricultural production and ways to identify and select the true quality. The academy receives a certain amount of fresh leafy vegetables and spices for trainings and presentations.
2nd place is taken by Asen Terziev, Akrima Invest, Yagodina village with a farm for growing Rhodope beans, potatoes, organic garden for cultivation of wild Mursal tea and a workshop for certified organic products such as variety of jams, herbal elixirs, blanched nettle, blanched beans, wild apple vinegar, fruit concentrates of raspberry, chokeberry, fruit and elderflower. They combine farming with sustainable tourism and their hotel Mursal. 60% of the food in the hotel is either their own or from other local producers. They also have 6 horses. They strive to protect the environment by using renewable energy: solar panels, and for 3 years they have not used plastic bottles for their products. They have introduced a new technology – ultrasonic homogenization of processed products. Asen has a successful partnership with several dairies, livestock farms up to 20 km and jointly sell their products.
3rd place is for Ekaterina Kutseva, the village of Govren, Devin municipality. Together with her family she breeds 80 horses of several breeds: from the autochthonous Karakachan horse breed, elite riding horses, Bulgarian heavy horse breed – for activities related to logging. Ekaterina aims to preserve the gene pool of the Bulgarian Karakachan horse and strictly follows the procedures for their 40 certified horses. In the elite breeds of horses, the farm is a three-time champion for Bulgaria and has won many awards. They also breed Alabai dogs. They have 20 cows and 100 beehives. The farm produces various meat delicacies such as salt-dried meats, etc., entirely by hand and according to traditional recipes. The family has a tourist company for horseback riding and horseback riding tours, thus supplementing the income and promoting the activities of the farm. The animals graze, which is a major factor in preserving the high mountain pastures and hay meadows and in preserving the pastoral rural landscape.