From Singapore to the USA and all around Europe, Edible Innovations profiles food makers that engage in improving the global food system at every stage, from production to distribution to eating and shopping. Join us as we explore the main trends in the industry from a maker perspective. Chiara Cecchini of Food Innovation Program — an ecosystem with a strong educational core that promotes food innovation as a key tool to tackle the great challenges of the future — introduces you to the faces, stories, and experiences of food makers around the globe. Check back on Tuesdays and Thursdays for new installments.
The food revolution in the United States has brought about two major things: sustainably sourced food options and an increase in prices. As you walk through your favorite health food stores, or just down a grocery aisle, you may notice an increase in price in one area especially: nut based snacks. While there are many reasons for the increase in your favorite source of protein, ranging from droughts to availability, one reason is often never advertised: bees.
Turtle Haus and their founder, Morgan Woolf, are tackling a puzzling phenomenon around a decline in bee populations that are used to fertilize the almond industries production. Turtle Haus focuses on the largest global demand for bees (almond production) by finding a way to create a new sustainable source that doesn’t exhaust our little bee friends.
Problems in the Almond Industry
Turtle Haus and its quirky advertisements are the brainchild of food entrepreneur and comedian, Morgan Woolf. A proud, self-proclaimed drop out of the Almond Board Leadership Program that deals with both almond and coffee production, Woolf saw some major flaws in the almond industry. The industry was stressing out bees and causing bee populations to rapidly drop. He also noticed that the supply chain was masked in secrecy, making it harder for consumers and providers to honestly communicate about origins and practices in the production line.
In the past few years’ almonds have received a lot of flack from the California sustainability movement. California was hit a few years back with one of its harshest droughts since the 1970s, depleting water sources for both commercial and residential use. Fingers were pointed in accusation in every direction across the state, including agricultural production. Big agriculture makes up 80% of the water use in California, and it did not suspend its practices during the drought. So almond farms, in huge part, got the spotlight for being big drains on the water sources.
Woolf countered this problem by making almond farms that do not use huge amounts of water, and do not overwork the honey bees that pollinate the flowers. These little bees are just like us, they need to relax, or, as Woolf puts it, “Netflix and Buzz.” A stressed out, and over managed bee is more likely to die of diseases or pests, or even leave the hive.
Bye, Bye Bees
20-60% of bee populations suddenly and totally disappear, and while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) isn’t clear on why, there are indications to potential causes. Diseases, agriculture based chemicals, and stress through management practices are the big ones. When the bees are transported, and then have sources of nutrients changed, their habitat changes and this causes them major stress. Turtle Haus focuses on using less or no bees, which mean less transportation and less stress.
Bees are major supporters of our eco-system, so when bees start to disappear, it means huge issues for all of us. It’s not just almonds, bees are pollinators for all different types of fruits and veggies that are essential for both our and other species’ diets. Without these essential little creatures buzzing around, we would be out of food, clothing, and many species would die off. The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources reminds us that bees are responsible for every three bites of food we eat.
Soft Shell Almonds
Woolf’s first product was soft shell almonds, referred to as the pistachio of almonds. They are easy to eat, and don’t leave a mess. This type of almond is unique on the market (and also has a new brining method as well) at an affordable price. Consumers want healthy and sustainable options, but don’t necessarily want to change the ways they buy and pay for things.
The food revolution wants us to switch to cricket powders or plant-based diets, and a lot of consumers are not so into that idea. It also tends to get very expensive when you start looking at sustainable food. Woolf recognizes that most people are more or less okay with the cheapest and most available option already on the market, so you have to compete with that feeling. His almonds are affordable, cleverly packaged, and still are sustainable for the bees, farmers, and consumers.
As Turtle Haus continues to grow, their options for almonds do as well. You can choose from smokey, natural, or sea salt soft shell almonds, all with paper-thin shells. They are sustainable but don’t sacrifice taste. Woolf plans on expanding their reach, educating more people about the use of bees in agricultural practices, and, of course, selling more of his almonds!