Serbia: The zero waste production principle in practice

There is still a long way to go to improve circularity in Serbia's agriculture, but there are companies that are forging the path ahead.

Circular agriculture is a concept that promotes the sustainable use of existing agricultural inputs and products, therefore representing way forward for the future of the agri-food industry. Circular agriculture in Serbia is in its infancy. The majority of agricultural production is linear, focused on increased productivity and usually overusing energy and natural resources in a way that is not environmentally friendly. Nevertheless, Serbia’s agricultural policy over the last decade has been largely driven by the prospects of EU accession and state authorities are aligning the country’s legislation with the EU acquis, thus aiming to transition from the linear to the circular model of agriculture and economy.

Examples of circular agro production in Serbia are present but not numerous. The company Ekofungi has created a few innovative solutions related substrata production for oyster mushroom growing. Two decades ago, at the very beginning of their operations, they cooperated with the Mushroom Experimental Station in Horst, in the Netherlands (at that time part of the Wagenningen University), which is a famous center for the scientific research of growing edible mushrooms. Experience and knowledge gained in Horst oriented the company towards sustainable production.

System Ekofungi is the only Serbian company whose core business is the production of organic champignons and oyster mushrooms. They also process organic vegetables, mix them with organic mushrooms and pack them in several final products.

“For our team, sustainable production is not just a phrase, it is the way we think and work. Our production cycle does not a have beginning or an end. It is simply – the cycle,” says Mr. Milos Mirkovic, EkoFungi Marketing Manager.

How does the production cycle work? Let’s start from horse manure. “We help stud farms get rid of their waste. Horse manure is turned into compost for organic mushroom production. Once the mushrooms are picked, the used comport (which is high quality fertilizer) is given to organic vegetable farmers. We buy organic vegetables from those farmers, dehydrate them and mix them with organic mushrooms for final products that we sell. Besides vegetable production, those farmers have organic wheat production. After the harvest, part of the hay is delivered to the horse farms (fodder for horses) and part of it ends up at Ekofungi for the production of oyster mushrooms. After the harvest of mushrooms, the used substrata is given to farmers as an addition to their animal feed. It is simply a “Zero Waste” production method,” explains Mr. Mirkovic.

The company has gone one step further, and started implementing the principle of the “blue economy”. Everything is sourced locally. All inputs for their production are sourced from local vegetable farmers and horse breeders in a radius of 30 km around their production facilities. “What is waste for the farmers is input for our production. And waste products from our company is delivered to farmers to improve their production”, states the marketing manager.

A diagram of Ekofungi's production model
Beeld: ©Ekofungi

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Serbia Newsflash Week 6, 2022

Free trade agreement with China on the horizon, the complaints of the milling industry, rising diesel prices hurting farmers, the EIB under fire by environmental organizations for two micro dams, and a new cooperation framework signed with the UN - The week in Serbian agriculture