Sustainable food, organic farming and nature development

Thomas Harttung, co-founder Aarstiderne

What challenge was the inspiration for your project?

On average, if you look at organic agriculture as an industry, we are over-promising and under-delivering. Søren [joint co-founder of Aarstiderne] and I wanted to go against the grain of organic thinking to become a successful business. We wanted to change how consumers view and consume food.

What was your innovation that addresses this problem?

From a strategic perspective, the story for the last 10 years has been about mainstreaming organic to make it relevant to the marketplace. Our [Søren and I] innovation was to deliver meal boxes, expanding from fruit and vegetable to meat and fish, and getting people excited about organic through meal experiences. And we are also increasingly developing new models of agriculture.

What impact has Triodos Bank had on your business?

In 1999, the World Organic Conference had a workshop – where I was on the panel – about green private equity meeting green ideas and developing a language of trust between green entrepreneurs and the banks. Triodos Bank was also on the panel and from there, we established a great relationship where Triodos became an investor in our business and our financing became more sustainable. Triodos understood that this movement is about doing something that makes sense for the long term.

What impact has your business had on the sector you work in?

If you look at what I’ll be doing over the next 2-3 years, emphasis will be on developing the next version or template for organic agriculture. With the present scale of organic agriculture and the interest from the public, there is actually an opportunity for Aarstiderne to revisit the more fundamental principles and create an organic agriculture system that is more in tune with the true aspirations and expectations of our customers.

What impact has your business had on the community?

Aarstiderne has grown to a business which serves 54,000 customers mostly in Demark, but also in Sweden. It has expanded the fruit and vegetable box distribution to include meal boxes with measured ingredients, such as: meat/fish, vegetarian, diet, etc. as well as recipes. We are the market leader because we consistently deliver an improvement in people’s quality of life and their sustainability at the same time. We’re enabling people to realise the life they really want to live. Young urban professionals struggle enormously because they love their jobs and careers, but this is affecting their ability to take care of themselves and their children. They want solutions to get them through Monday to Friday and we deliver on that consistently. The good news is that our customers will always have more ambitions and we will always find ways to deliver more meaningful solutions that cater to a greater sense of happiness, sustainability and convenience.

How does Triodos Bank share your vision?

If you ask me, our values are very much in line with Triodos. Triodos can contribute by being a long-term investor with us and also invest in other like-minded businesses that can contribute to a better common future and increased innovation. By supporting and investing in companies that are on the same journey, we can increase the likelihood of this becoming a very broad movement.