Migration

Semìno, discovering food from other worlds, grown by migrants

The Semìno project is a journey of discovery through different countries’ food habits, offering migrants employment opportunities and allowing us to enjoy the properties of vegetables from all over the world.

How can we create decent work opportunities for migrants? By giving them the possibility of growing vegetables that are typically found in their home countries, for example. Especially those crops blessed with many properties that are sought-after in Western markets – like the Italian one – constantly hunting for the next “superfood” with extraordinary nutritional value. This is the goal of Semìno – Alimentare Positivo, a social agricultural project based in the city of Bologna.

semìno
Gombo, or okra, is originally from Africa and is also grown in Asia © Ingimage

From seeds to business

The idea was born in 2016 from the meeting between the Bistro Vetro kitchen brigade and Giardini Margherita Greenhouses community garden, a regenerated space managed by Kilowatt, which researches and develops crop species as well as offering training and incubating startups. One day Farouk, a sous-chef from Bangladesh, asked if he could try and grow some of the vegetables typical of his homeland, whose seeds he keeps and that are difficult to find in Italy.

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His request lay the ground for the actual business project, the cultivation of food varieties used in migrants’ diets; aimed at creating jobs and contributing to the development of an inclusive and open community.

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Farouk cooking dishes with gombo © Kilowatt

Semìno is locally sourced, ethical and sustainable

Supported by Local To You and Pictor – respectively a platform that distributes locally-sourced organic products and a social cooperative that manages job placements for vulnerable individuals – Semìno won the 2017 Unicredit Carta E financing tender, aimed at creating socially impactful companies that employ youth.

Rescue-AB, the research centre on urban agriculture and biodiversity at the agrarian science department of the University of Bologna, also joined the project, tasked with the scientific supervision and monitoring of Semìno’s crops. After an initial experimental cultivation (purple potato and Indian spinach that were also added to Vetro’s menu), the species for the second round were selected in the winter of 2018, according to a local, ethical and sustainable production cycle that respects people and the environment.

semìno
Vetro bistro’s garden in Bologna © Kilowatt

From gombo to black-eyed peas

Semìno’s vegetables can be purchased through Local To You: one of the available products is gombo (that looks like a cross between a courgette and pickle), a low-calorie vegetable that contributes to sugar regulation, rich in vitamins, folic acid, calcium, zinc, potassium and fibres, perfect for providing a rich texture to soups thanks to its gelatinous fluid that acts as a thickening agent. Then there’s daikon with its digestive properties and high Vitamin C, fibre, mineral and beta-carotene content, which can be consumed raw or steamed, cooked in the oven or au gratin. In addition, black-eyed peas are also available: a very ancient variety of legume, rich in proteins and fibres, with a slightly shorter cooking time compared to other types of beans. Finally, there’s turmeric, a spice that has become hugely popular, with its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

To join the network (as a producer, farmer, distributor or restaurateur) you can contact [email protected]

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