Derek Newberry

Rising Ventures: Turning Conventional Croplands Into “Terrafertil”

New Ventures Intern Jesse Last discusses his recent interview with Terrafertil founder David Bermeo and ponders the darker side of conventional roses.

Read Jesse’s full profile of Terrafertil here

roseBad news folks – and no, I’m not talking about the recent Yankees surge. Rather, I’m referring to what I recently discovered about roses. I know, what could be bad about roses – they smell good, they look good, and giving them always earns you points. But how about if your special someone knew your gift was actually poisoning him or her along with developing economy workers? That’s right, the beauty of the rose often masks an ugly reality of cancer-causing pesticides, poor working conditions and environmental damage. Fortunately, we have alternatives. First, while still limited in number, “green” roses can be found. Second, organic dried fruits are not only better for the environment and those that grow them, but they make a far more delicious gift.

David Bermeo, one of three founders of the dried fruit company Terrafertil, came to a similar realization in 2005. While presumably less obsessed with the rose phenomenon than I, he saw first-hand the damage the rose industry was doing to the rich ecosystem of the Ecuadorian highlands – as well as to the poorly paid workers. Coming from a family immersed in the food business, he also recognized increasing market demand for organic dried fruit. He put his entrepreneurial spirit to work and founded Terrafertil, a company offering natural and organic dried fruit for distribution in both domestic and international markets.

Unlike traditional distributors, David purchases the majority of his fruit from small, organic farms. The conventionally-grown remainder also comes from local farmers, and in the past several years he has connected many growers with technical advisors in organic production. His suppliers receive 70% more than those in the flower industry, a practice that has earned Terrafertil FairTrade certification. And, while David acknowledges that these business practices add to his costs, he sees a positive return based on the growing premium consumers will pay for responsibly grown produce. His company’s impressive growth backs his assertion up. And if the business case were not enough, he maintains that “at the end of the day, these practices are the right thing to do.”