Indie Ecology: Former chef turns food waste farmer, helping London restaurants to be more eco-friendly

Indie Ecology is helping the restaurant industry to be more eco-friendly, using a natural and pesticide-free process to produce compost.

The food waste farming initiative offers London’s top chefs the opportunity to work with the latest soil technologies and eco-tech solutions to deliver what their kitchens need, and their own fully-managed food chain that they control from seed to plate.

Indie Ecology was set up in 2011 by Igor Vaintraub. The farmer, who studied with the British Society of Soil Science, collects food waste in 120-litre sealed bins from more than 80 restaurants in the capital, including Michelin-starred The Ledbury, Michel Roux’s La Gavroche, and Robin Gill’s The Dairy and Sorella.

The self-proclaimed “Food Waste Farmer” then turns the food waste into compost on a 10-acre farm in West Sussex, where he rents plots to chefs who tell him what hand-picked vegetables they want grown.

Igor Vaintraub uses natural and pesticide-free processes, based on the Japanese “Bokashi” method using fermented molasses, to turn leftovers – including meat, fish and dairy – into compost.

London’s restaurant industry throws away millions of tonnes of food every year. By reducing and reusing this waste, Igor Vaintraub is able to help restaurants reduce CO2 emissions “through better land management and composting waste to work it back into the land, while following the best organic practices”.

Under Indie Ecology’s initiative, the company provides the land (plots start at 1,100 sq ft) to restaurants which don’t have space for their own kitchen gardens to grow bespoke produce, while using up the kitchen waste they can’t cut out completely.

London restaurants including The Clove Club, The Ledbury, The Dairy and The Manor currently rent plots, greenhouse space and polytunnels at Igor Vaintraub’s Sussex-based farm. Restaurants decide which type of crops they want and how much they need, while Indie Ecology provides them with the farmers and logistics.

Igor Vaintraub himself trained as a chef, working in London restaurants such as Elena’s L’Etoile and L’Oranger, before turning his attention to soil science. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, he said: “I understand chefs and wanted to find a way to help transform the way they think and act in terms of their impact on nature and the environment. We [Indie Ecology] help address commercial kitchens’ food waste problem. We’re looking at the whole carbon footprint of the food; cutting CO2 emissions through better land management, turning waste into soil and putting it back onto the land, increasing the biodiversity by adding beneficial microorganisms, and following the best organic practices.”

Indie Ecology also works to rescue farmland, encourage biodiversity, and promote more sustainable growing.

Indie Ecology

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea


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