Femke van Iperen
A new podcast "20 Minutes with Leon" is the latest rendez-vous with the world's greatest minds on bioenergy, bioeconomy and carbon removal. The podcast series is hosted by a mascot of the Bio360 Expo, a chameleon, and has kicked off with a talk with filmmaker and writer Mathew Schmid on the topic "The biochar effect." Says the green host Leon: The time has come for new ways of thinking for us here on earth.
The podcast "20 Minutes with Leon &…" has been created by the organisers of Bio360 Expo. The international expo and conference is offering the world a new way of seeing and being. It does so "by mapping the pathways of the biotransition," and also by "mirroring the dynamics of our solar system," among other things. In the podcast show, Leon the mascot is welcoming an international expert who shares their knowledge and vision of the transition to a vibrant, diverse, renewable, sustainable, circular bio-world ... a world that has been described as "one where life goes on."
Ice on Fire
The show's pioneer guest Mathew Schmid is known as a writer, producer and director of short and feature-length documentary films. Most recently he co-produced 'Ice On Fire' for HBO, with Leonardo di Caprio. The film was part of the official selection at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019, and is described as 'an eye-opening documentary that zooms in on many solutions that can help us save the world by slowing down our escalating environmental crisis.'
True behavioural change
Whilst the green chameleon is reputed for its ability to change colour to suit the moment, according to the Bio360 Expo the friendly creature has "already been through the cycle." In addition, it "now lives by his true colours (or colour); a bright, fervent green," and; "for good this time, because he’s understood."
Green, the organisers further explain, is a good colour. It is a "conviction-based pigment, resilient, hard-wearing: Signifying not cosmetic change, but true behavioural change." According to the expo we also: "Need to be more like him," and it is urging us to: "Let’s do it, let’s bring on the bio-transition!!"
“Let’s do it, let’s bring on the bio-transition!!"
The next stage
Every year, the Bio360 Expo provides a space for all the experts on exciting concepts such as gasification, biohydrogen and liquid feedstocks, to get together, brainstorm, and see what's new. Topics may be new to most of us, but it may be great to know that the world's movers and shakers are paving the way for the next stage in human development on earth.
Mathew will also be visiting Bio360 Expo 2023. "As an advocate and ambassador of the biotransition we are delighted to announce that Mathew is coming to next year’s edition of Bio360 Expo in Nantes in February," a spokesperson for the expo said, and added: "He has also agreed to share his vision with us and to divulge his next big project: "The biochar effect."
“Mathew has also agreed to share his vision with us and to divulge his next big project: "The biochar effect"
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The Bio360 Expo story
According to the expo organisers, there are 'a myriad of sustainable biomass resources available in the biosphere.' Bio360 Expo is described as a large-scale international assembly point with an exhibition and conference programme. Its dedicated programmes to advancing bioenergy, the bioeconomy and atmospheric carbon removal are said to attract 7-8000 visitors from 40+ countries as well as 450 exhibitors from 35 countries. The event is singularly focussed on spotlighting solutions that can accelerate the biotransition through the scaling-up of transformative and often disruptive technologies. This is a fast-moving sector, says the Expo, so its themes can be expanded last minute, and new arrivals and often disruptive approaches can "arrive from stage left" at any moment.
Bio360 Expo is for professionals and the 2023 exhibition will be 8-9 february 2023 Nantes, France
Interested? Here are some useful links
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The method of conscious, or intentional breathing, often called breathwork, has originated almost exclusively from either the scientific corner, or from the alternative one. But the creators of a research-based technological device from Belgium have found a way to bridge both worlds. Whatever our approach, background, or "journey" we are on: moonbird is opening the way for everyone to create calm, and support healing in the body as well as in the mind. But let's start at the beginning. This is the story of Stefanie, CEO and co-founder of a "handheld breathing coach" called moonbird.
Stefanie, can you tell us a little bit about your own experience with breathwork, and what your mission is?
After studying biomedical sciences, I completed a PhD in pharmaceutical sciences and a masters in law (IP and ICT law). During my study, I started doing yoga and eventually shifted to meditation. After doing this for almost 10 years, I started experimenting with the breath. I did this mainly to downregulate my nervous system when going to bed, since I used to suffer from insomnia. When I found out how strong the effect of slow breathing was, it was a no-brainer to start a company to make this more available to all. When it comes to meditation, there are lots of companies active in this space. With moonbird, we want to make breathwork accessible, cool and convenient. Ultimately, our mission is to help millions of people utilise their breathing to live a more conscious, healthier, and happier life.
Where does the name come from?
Moonbird is the name of a bird; a "Red Knot" which has been given the name B95 [Editor: After its unique band number]. Each year this bird flies from the Terra Del Fuego in Argentina to the Canadian Arctic. In total, in its life it has flown more than the distance from the earth to the moon and back, which is why they baptised him 'Moonbird'. He is celebrated for his longevity and as a symbol of good health. We found this beautiful and appropriate, and luckily for us, the name was still available!
People that practice breathwork often say it helps them connect their mind and body, and even their spirit, or inner being. Can you tell us a little bit about the benefits of connecting our mind and body?
Our breath can be seen as a physical representation of our mind. When we're stressed or anxious, our breathing will be more rapid, and vice versa; when we are calm and relaxed so will our breathing. But the opposite is also true! By voluntarily changing our breathing rate, we can steer or influence our state of mind. That's why breathing is the bridge between body and mind. It influences our accelerating nervous system, as well as the relaxation part of the nervous system. Sometimes the breath, therefore, is referred to as the remote control of the nervous system, allowing us to switch between one state and the other. I believe that many people in our modern society can benefit from this. We're living in a hectic world and we sometimes lack the tools to check in with ourselves and then act upon what we need. The beauty of breathing is that it allows both: Focus on your breathing, see how it is to check in with yourself, and then increase or decrease your breathing rate to activate or calm yourself down.
“By voluntarily changing our breathing rate, we can steer or influence our state of mind"
Breathwork is often seen as either something spiritual, or something scientific. In your experience, can something like this little device make some kind of bridge between them?
Breathwork is still considered on the edge of the fluffy or spiritual side of the spectrum. But, I am a scientist by training, and the scientific backing of breathwork is important to me. Without this, I would never have started working with this. We have designed a unique product that makes breathwork not only tangible but also measurable. Via the built-in heart rate sensor, you can see the impact of the breathing exercises on your body. If you start to breathe really slowly, your heart rate and breathing will start to synchronise, meaning that your nervous system is in balance. This usually manages to convince even non-believers!
Science tells us that someone can focus on their breathing more easily with something tangible in their hand. Can you talk a little bit about this?
Well, research indicates that externally-paced (or guided) breathing is more effective in improving heart rate variability than self-paced breathing. In most applications, breathing guidance is usually expressed in graphics or numbers, which tends to be rather technical. Or, via audio visual cues, which can be quite ‘cognitively demanding’ to follow. Some devices or apps are performance-oriented, which in some cases can even lead to increased stress or anxiety. In addition, breath pacers via smartphone apps are not always welcome in an already overly digital world.
moonbird however, offers breathing guidance via our sense of touch: The oldest and most intuitive of the senses. In everyday life, touch appears to be a powerful method of communicating safety to us. Studies also show that interaction with tangible objects is important for those who have lost connection with their body and their environment. In the treatment of anxiety for example, the focus is on the tactile component. People with anxiety often seek comfort in holding or touching a blanket or a piece of clothing, or by rubbing a piece of furniture. Research shows that touch even regulates our response to certain kinds of threat. More specifically, studies illustrate that various forms of touch, as well as certain changes in temperature, vibrations or movements, can affect how we feel. There is research on the positive physiological effects of touch, including reduced stress levels indicated by lower heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol and increased oxytocin.
What kinds of people use moonbird?
To use an example, one of our clients suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, just like 10% of the average population. To cope with her anxiety she already learned about the power of breathing. She was already doing some breathing exercises from time to time, but during a panic attack or an anxious moment, it is very difficult to stay focussed on our breathing. Since she received moonbird, she has been using it daily. She tells us the tool keeps her focussed on her breathing, which is helping her a lot. She takes it with her almost everywhere since her fear has recently become more intense again. She also told us that merely the idea that she has it with her is already reassuring her!
We know that effective breathing is good for our health. moonbird goes one step further. The mobile tactile breathing device guides users intuitively through slow-paced calming breathing exercises, whilst providing biofeedback via the built-in sensor. By having the device guide them, there is no need to focus on anything. By actually feeling it contract and expand, people that use it can effortlessly and intuitively match their breath to the device’s movement, and they can learn important information about their body from its biofeedback.
moonbird is co-created and tested with doctors, psychologists, coaches, therapists, pharmacists, academics, and our end-users, and users can track the effect on their body through its app, for example whether their heart rate and breathing are in sync. That way, they can learn and adapt in real time.
Rather than setting aside an hour a week to do breathwork, or having to sit on a mountain top amid breath-taking surroundings, it can be used anywhere and anytime. Using it just before a meeting, or when embarking on something stressful such as moving home: It can help users nip stress in the bud before it grows, and it can help them retrain their mind and body.
An independent study conducted by LiCalab at Thomas More Hogeschool in Belgium recently reviewed the usability of moonbird. The results show that moonbird can be a workable solution for people with insomnia. The sleep quality of 79% of the participants significantly improved, and 81% of the participants also experienced more energy and felt more rested during the day.
Breathing and our health
As we grow up, many aspects influence and change our breathing patterns. From sitting for eight hours in classrooms, tight clothes, and traumatic events to injuries. But also unhealthy environments, lack of activity, stressful and sedentary lives, disease or medication can all cause people to shift to more rapid breathing. We often breathe through the mouth, hold tension in our neck, lift our shoulders and breathe high in the upper chest. These changes may be very subtle and can happen over a long period of time, but eventually can lead to chronic over breathing. Our breathing can become less effective, and create an inner state of alert, with ill-health as a result.
Doing breathwork is advocated as a self-help tool with which we can control our breath in different styles and lengths. We do this in order to breathe consciously, with awareness, and with intent, to create a certain effect. People who might be more spiritually inclined might see breathwork as something that can help them move beyond their body and mind, and connect with their core spirit. They might, for example, practice the ancient form of breath regulation of Indian Pranayama, which is known for being used during yoga practices as an exercise for physical and mental wellness. But, methods of conscious breathing can be used for their all-round positive effects on all areas of our mental, emotional, physical, as well as spiritual selves.
The world’s largest trial of 4 Day Week Global in the United Kingdom (UK) has reached its halfway point, with positive signs emerging. With programmes around the world, the multinational coalition of businesspeople, academics, researchers and authors is said to be driving the biggest change in work since the shift to a five-day week a century ago. Is the way we think about work changing forever?
The four-day week pilot programme of 4 Day Week Global is being adopted all over the world in a bid to improve productivity and wellness in the workplace. As reported earlier in Breaking Perspectives, the initiative is known as one of the biggest shape ups of work in recent times. Now, as companies all over the world are taking the plunge, UK companies that have done it so far, have revealed a general positive picture. There have also been some valuable lessons for some organisations that are striving to change decades of ingrained work cultures and systems, say the organisers behind the programme.
The pilot is known for its focus on productivity and a reduced-hour model of work, and as part of pilot programmes it is also rolling out in North America, Ireland, and Australia and New Zealand in 2022. "Being an early adopter and market leader in reduced-hour, productivity-focussed working establishes businesses as innovative, progressive and forward-thinking. The greatest risk is that your competitors try this before you do,” said co-founder Andrew Barnes.
“Being an early adopter and market leader in reduced-hour, productivity-focussed working establishes businesses as innovative, progressive and forward-thinking"
We're all in
From a local chippy to large corporates: UK participants span from sectors in education, workplace consultancy, leadership, personal development, and IT software training, to building and construction recruitment services.
Other business in homecare, trauma injury services, retail, food and beverage and hospitality digital marketing are all taking part, and from the respondents of a mid-programme test in the UK, 86% of respondents stated that at this juncture in the trial, they would be 'extremely likely' or 'likely' to consider retaining the four-day week policy after the trial period.
A further 46% of respondents also said that despite the one less working day, their business productivity has 'maintained around the same level,' while 34% reported that it has 'improved slightly,' and 15% that it has 'improved significantly.'
Laying the foundation
4 Day Week Global CEO Joe O’Connor said: "The organisations in the UK pilot are contributing real-time data and knowledge that are worth their weight in gold. Essentially, they are laying the foundation for the future of work by putting a four-day week into practice, across every size of business and nearly every sector, and telling us exactly what they are finding as they go."
Nicci Russell, the Managing Director of partaker Waterwise, whose mission it is to reduce water consumption in the UK, said the pilot initially involved a learning curve: "We're proud to be involved in the trial and it's going well for us. We have all had to work at it - some weeks are easier than others and things like annual leave can make it harder to fit everything in - but we're much more settled with it now overall than we were at the start, and the team are pretty happy. We certainly all love the extra day out of the office and do come back refreshed. It's been great for our wellbeing and we're definitely more productive already.'
“We certainly all love the extra day out of the office and do come back refreshed. It's been great for our wellbeing and we're definitely more productive already"
South Africa’s next
Reportedly, South African business owners and leaders have been watching the roll-out of the world’s biggest four-day week trial in the UK with interest, and now, South African businesses are also invited to join a pilot in South Africa.
Looking at Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2022 Report, which shows that only 24% of South African workers are engaged at work and only 29% are thriving in their overall well-being, the organisers of the programme say that the time is ripe to relook not just where we work, but how, when and for how long, and now South Africa is set to follow suit.
“The time is ripe to relook not just where we work, but how, when and for how long, and now South Africa is set to follow suit"
Are naturally-grown fruits and vegetables essentially healthier than those grown conventionally? And what is the connection with the soil and the bacteria that eventually end up in our gut? Not much scientific research seems to have been done in this area. But that is about to change. With its latest and unique research, called Bac2food, a Dutch foundation is taking a step further in science. The whole picture is also being looked at, since everything plays a role.
With the research, which has been running since 2019 in collaboration with Maastricht University and VU Amsterdam, the Bac2nature foundation is trying to find out whether fruit and vegetables are healthier when grown in what researchers call a 'microbial- rich environment.' This type of soil is more prevalent when it is natural, unprocessed, and no pesticides have been added.
To find out, Bac2nature has been comparing organically-grown tomato, cucumber, pepper and lettuce (i.e. grown in the open without the protection of a greenhouse) with conventionally grown (also called hydroponics; growing plants in water with added nutrients).
The research is called Bac2food and its researchers are building on previous scientific findings. Not much has been conducted in this area, but recent research in both Austria and another in Poland, did show us that the more natural, organically-grown apples and strawberries, contain a significantly higher microbial biodiversity than those grown conventionally.
A lot of attention
That search for a link between the microbiological biodiversity of the soil, the crops we eat; and our digestion and health, turns out to be quite unique in the world, according to Marco van Es, the pioneer of the Bac2nature foundation. Although that seems to be changing since his research has started, and he says: "There's been a lot of scientific attention to investigate things further."
Since Bac2nature started the research, funding has not only been released for Bac2food itself, but also for more general experiments into the relationship between soil, crop and human health in the Netherlands by the Dutch Research Council NWO.
In addition to the organic agriculture sector, the conventional sector too has shown great interest in the research, says Marco. The latter is also on the lookout for even healthier fruit and vegetables for its customers. Because in essence, we are all looking for ways to start living better and healthier, for ourselves and also for the earth.
Not just any old microbiome
Especially since those little probiotic drinks entered our supermarkets and lives, we have come to realise more and more that apart from bad, there are also good bacteria.
Volkert Engelsman, Director of the international organic fruit and vegetable distributor Eosta, which supports the Bac2food research, explains: "In the past, bacteria have always been regarded as enemies, as pathogens. In recent years it has become rapidly clear that bacteria in the first and foremost partners, are indispensable helpers to balance the health of people and the planet.”
But what more and more health experts and scientists are talking about in particular is the microbiome, that soup of 'microbes, such as bacteria, fungi and viruses'...of which bacteria are a part. All of this lives mainly in our intestines, but also on our skin and in our lungs and has a major impact on our health.
What matters most is the diversity of the microbiome that lives in our body. The importance of this has also become clear in his own research, and Marco explains: "One of the things that is becoming more and more prominent in science, is that diversity of bacterial compositions an indicator is of healthy gut microbiota. The more diverse the bacteria are; the healthier, and the more resilient that person is."
The fact that a healthy system requires exposure to a range of microbes that is rich in diversity, has been researched a lot, explains Marco. For example, links have been made with better protection against allergies, chronic and inflammatory diseases; malnutrition and obesity; and all kinds of important body systems such as the nervous system.
In addition, it is increasingly apparent that if we turn things around, when we have a disturbed, or less diverse gut microbiome in our body, we can become unhealthy.
Turns out that can happen quite quickly, and Volkert from Eosta explains: "Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology in London, wrote in his book The Diet Myth that the diversity of microbes in our body is now 30% less than it was 50 years ago," he says, adding add that the book further indicates that a diet of junk food can reduce the healthy microbiome in the gut in two days.
“The more diverse the bacteria are; the healthier, and the more resilient that person is"
It's more than our junk food
When as humans, we found ways to increase the shelf life of our food all those years ago during our industrialisation of life, there were not only many advantages, there were also disadvantages. Since then, most of our food that enters our intestines is quite 'depleted,' explains Marco: "Nearly everything we eat has a long shelf life; it has been pasteurised or sterilised. Not only the micro-organisms that can cause food going off have been removed, but all micro-organisms."
Before our food is factory processed, we grow it in a way that is less natural, and by the time it has reached us it is less fresh. Even fermented products, which do contain a lot of bacteria, are often less diverse than we think because they are usually made with industrial bacterial cultures, explains Marco.
The composition of the microbiome of the soil in which our fruit and vegetables grow also plays a major role, and Volkert adds: "Intensive farming has long been known to deplete the diversity of the soil microbiome… which may not be as beneficial to health."
“Nearly everything we eat has a long shelf life. Not only the micro-organisms that can cause food going off have been removed, but all micro-organisms"
The whole picture
Once we start to look at the type of soil in which we grow our fruit and vegetables, we begin to look at the whole picture. Because we are also starting to realise that everything plays a role.
In addition to the aspect of nutrition, according to experts such as Marco, Western urbanisation in particular has had a negative impact on the microbiome in our body. Particularly in children's playgrounds, cities and buildings, which all have their own microbiome.
There too has been a lot of research in this area and Marco points to for example, an experiment in day-care centres in Finland that showed that children became healthier by exposing them to soil and bacteria. In other words: if we take steps to create more biodiversity in these types of living environments, we could become healthier as humans.
Similarly, researchers in South Australia have showed us that urban green management can have predictable positive effects on the diversity of the local microbiome and the health of residents.
There are also more reports about how the low microdiversity that is found in buildings and offices can be linked to the poor health of the people that work in them.
Nature? What nature
"The fact that we, in our Western society, have less and less variety of bacteria in our gut, seems to be more and more connected with the fact that we have started living further and further away from nature," says Marco. "In contrast, people who live in close contact with nature, and that lack autoimmune diseases, have been found to have about twice the different types of bacteria compared to us," he explains.
There aren’t many examples left, but there are a few, says Marco. For example, we can look at the hunter-gatherer life of the Hadzas in Tanzania. Or people that live in the so-called 'blue zones', areas on earth where the average person grows old in a healthy way, and where a high proportion of fresh, local and home-grown products are consumed.
Because, says Marco, people that still live in close contact with nature all seem to have about the highest biodiversity in the world in their gut.
Volkert agrees: "According to Tim Spector, the only common factor of a healthy diet, healthy gut and a healthy body is diversity."
“The fact that we, in our Western society, have less and less variety of bacteria in our gut, seems to be more and more connected with the fact that we have started living further and further away from nature"
Back to square one?
All in all, scientists are now increasingly saying that biodiversity is crucial to humanity's survival, Marco explains, giving an example from a movie on netflix.
A number of American universities showed us for example in 2016 that the influence of the microbiome is of great importance in all human challenges in the fields of nutrition, energy, clean water, health and ecosystems.
But how can we best do this? According to Marco, we don't have to start living in ancient types of settlements again. We can, however, look at how we can reintroduce and support microbial diversity and our exposure to it in modern ways. For example in the domain of food and agriculture, but also our living environment.
So, we can take plants inside our homes, grow our own vegetables for more hands-on contact with the soil, or take more trips to the forest or our local city park. Turns out that even our dogs and cats take a rich microbiome from the forest into our homes.
On a larger scale, we can also make our playgrounds, cities and buildings greener. The latter is happening in cities, for example, in the heart of the Netherlands in urban Utrecht with the special apartment towers of Wonderwoods and its abseiling gardeners.
"To make a building healthier, stop sanitising everything and ventilate more. If you want people to be healthy and productive, tend the microbiome," argues Bloomberg too in an article.
Some scientists are even saying that there is a lot of opportunity in existing buildings to make them healthier, and that it would pay for architects, building engineers, chemists, immunologists, epidemiologists, physicians, to work together in creative ways.
According to Marco, it is also important that we maintain targeted hygiene in certain areas: "It has brought us a lot," he says, and explains further: "We can do that by continuing to use it in the right way: That is, keep avoiding contact with pathogens as much as possible, but also make sure you get the [good] natural bacteria in some way."
"How strong are the substantiations that this decrease in contact with nature is also related to the fact that as humans ware becoming more fragile? Well, this is starting to become clearer and clearer," he adds.
Exposure to a wide variety of micro-organisms is therefore key; for us, for nature, for animals, and this something that more and more experts agree on. Bac2food's fruit and vegetable research is set to contribute to this statement. Or, as the site puts it, "Our initiative adds the health perspective to the need to improve our planet's biodiversity."
“That our decrease in contact with nature is related to the fact that as humans are becoming more fragile is starting to become clearer and clearer"
Bac2nature is a Dutch foundation that makes the connection between biodiversity and human health. When you look at that relationship, it becomes clear that our health is directly linked to that of our planet, the organisation says. Central to this is the belief that people's resilient health is enhanced when they come into more contact with natural micro-organisms.
It is Bac2nature's mission to make the available scientific knowledge in this area accessible to companies, healthcare professionals, policymakers, knowledge institutions and the public with health-promoting lifestyle ambitions.
In addition, Bac2nature initiates research where further knowledge is desirable.
Plant-based cuisine is becoming more and more mainstream. Not only in our own kitchens, but also in those of the culinary top restaurants in the world. Our love for plant-based cuisine is still fairly new, but these renewed perspectives are permanent, says Vegetables Chef® Frank Fol. With his We're Smart® World initiative, Fol has been putting vegetable cuisine on the map for years and every year he visits the crème de la crème of all largely vegetarian restaurants around the world. According to the chef, a new world is opening up: A world bursting with colour, taste, creativity and sometimes even a touch of magic.
Chef Fol, who is the Vegetables Chef®?
I have been involved in plant-based cooking for over 30 years. From the beginning it was all about creativity for me. About the fact that a chef could make a difference by using more vegetables, in a creative way; making them the star of the dish. That meat in fact becomes secondary to vegetables.
This approach was my starting point. Over the years, the health aspect has been added. We had to start living healthier and more sustainably, and that also meant consuming less meat, more vegetables. It has been quite an evolution in the last 30 years.
In 2009 I started 'the best vegetable restaurant,' an initiative that resulted in the We’re Smart® Green Guide. I worked hard at the time to create as many ambassadors as I could: A thousand Frank Fols, spreading the same message as me, all over the world. And we succeeded. I am very pleased that today, the message is not only being shared by many, but also accepted by the general public.
What is going on in the vegetable restaurants of the world right now?
More and more customers are looking for restaurants where you can eat plant-based food in a high-quality, culinary way. As a result, we see that the new generation of chefs are discovering what the added value is, how creative you can be when you cook with fruit and vegetables. And they have succeeded: today, in many restaurants, and all over the world. For example, you can now find high-quality gastronomic vegetable cuisine everywhere in Belgium and the Netherlands: These are the kinds of countries that are forerunners. And it's with conviction, that's important too. Not because it's a trend, but this is structural.
Of course, not 100% of the public is on board yet and many countries are still in early stages. We are learning. But you do see that people are discovering how tasty vegetables can be, and that you don't actually need anything else. They are now also realising that in a plant-based restaurant you can eat beautifully, in a way that is actually very healthy ... and all that with taste. Because we can talk about health, if it is not tasty people will no longer eat plant-based food. So everything starts with taste.
“And it's with conviction, that's important too. Not because it's a trend, but this is structural"
What kind of innovations are emerging from these types of restaurants?
There are restaurants and chefs who play a pioneering role, such as Chef Emile van der Staak of De Nieuwe Winkel in the Netherlands, who is currently creating waves with his vegetable cuisine [Editorial: Chef Emile uses fresh, wild vegetables and herbs from the local Ketelbroek food forest, among other things].
Then there’s Chef René Mathieu from Luxembourg, whose La Distillerie has been voted best vegetable restaurant in the world for two years in a row now. Like Chef Emile, he incorporates wild harvest for his dishes. In addition, Chef Mathieu knows the medicinal side of what he picks well, and he is familiar with the lesser-known flavours. He builds a story on it all and delivers something very tasty.
A chef who is also a great example to us, not only of his vegetable cooking but also of the custom-made vegetable non-alcoholic drinks he works with, is Rodrigo de la Calle from El Invernadero in Madrid. Rodrigo creates truly magical things. He has a drink list of over 30 drinks, which he has tailored to his recipes. We are talking about vegetable wines, kefir, kombucha, but also about marinated wines. It is incredibly creative and innovative, and for me a new, fun experience. These chefs are all looking for ways to distinguish themselves with vegetables.
One of the products that will stay with me forever is tofu. We know it from the supermarket, but when tofu is made in a restaurant and served fresh, it suddenly becomes a kind of cream. It becomes a completely different product, not like those blocks we know. That is very intriguing. More chefs are starting to realise that sort of thing.
Tempeh that is freshly made in a restaurant is also a completely different product than the kind we can get in the supermarket today. There is a lot of creativity with different types of ingredients and with those kinds of products we are witnessing a revolution going on as well. It's a new world opening up.
What I saw in Japan recently was also very interesting. Japan is a country where nature and the seasons are sacred: it is part of the culture and you should respect that. So in today's Japan, you see more and more chefs making use of nature, and plant-based restaurants starting up everywhere. That too is an amazing evolution.
You can now see the same happening all over the world. Chefs everywhere are taking initiative to become pioneers in their country. Those are the types of chefs we're looking for, that's the kind of cuisine that we want to promote to the general public; to hopefully encourage people to choose more of these types of restaurants.
“There is a lot of creativity with different types of ingredients and we are witnessing a revolution going on. It's a new world opening up."
Chef Fol, how popular is the new vegetable restaurant?
What we are witnessing is that restaurants that opt entirely for plant-based foods are fully booked long in advance. There are also still few restaurants that actually do this. There are many that offer vegetable dishes in addition to their classic menu. But those who go for completely plant-based, sometimes even vegan, those are the kind of restaurants that are in high demand today. Just look at Eleven Madison Park in New York, with Chef Daniel Humm. [Editor: Eleven Madison Park, voted the world's best restaurant in 2017, went 100% vegetarian in 2020]. It too is fully booked months in advance.
Most of these restaurants work with seasonal vegetables. Chefs therefore work with what is available and tastiest at the time, such as the asparagus season in Belgium now. As a result, the menus often change.
Chef René Redzepi of Noma in Copenhagen [Editor: this restaurant has repeatedly been voted the world's best restaurant] also works with a “game” season, a fish season and a vegetable season. The vegetable season has just started in June, and the restaurant is just fully booked; from day one to three months later.
People are looking for those types of restaurants that show creativity with this kind of cooking. It just becomes a kind of marketing tool.
“Restaurants that opt entirely for plant-based foods are fully booked long in advance"
So, we now see products like kefir, tofu and kombucha on the menu in vegetable restaurants. Are different currents such as these coming together?
Absolutely! That flowing together is something that has grown from the belly of society, because there was already a movement that was working on it. We can see that going on a lot today. This kind of food is going to become more mainstream, and we are learning more and more to be creative with it.
We already know many chefs who all work with their own creations of drinks like kombucha and kefir. They make marinades, hot and cold teas, and they work with herbs. There are so many drinks you can create that go with food, and without alcohol! That again is an exciting development.
By the way, fresh kombucha is also something completely different from the more commercially-available kombucha that can often be very sweet. I know a good place in Antwerp where you can get it. Here, it is much lighter, fresher: It’s a product you can drink every day.
Incidentally, food as a proactive medicine is also becoming prominent. It is better to eat healthier than to take medicines, it can be immune boosting. People are becoming more and more aware of this. Let's hope this goes mainstream too.
Chef Fol, what kind of dish or ingredient do you appreciate the most yourself?
If I had to name one as a favourite it would be soil-grown chicory [Editor: Brussels soil-grown chicory is grown in the absence of light and has a rich history and tradition]. Hydroponics chicory is more of a salad, but the chicory grown in the ground has a bitterness, which is fantastic. Some people like it, others taste the bitterness too strongly, they react harshly to it. That kind of taste is also something you learn from childhood, which happened to me. If not, as is often the case with Brussels sprouts, something like this can remain a 'difficult' vegetable.
We were wondering, would you have a secret weapon you could share with a vegetable novice?
We see that many people, including chefs, are struggling with plant-based cooking. It's all new, and not at all how we’ve learned it. But most chefs are open to learning, because they realise that vegetables and plant-based cooking are the future. And that future is already here!
That's also why we help people get started with our 52 culinairy techniques of preparing fruits and vegetables. As soon as we introduce people to these skills, they begin to realise how many things you can do with vegetables. That's important because most people actually do the same thing all the time, which can make food boring. It is precisely thanks to the variation: Of the products, the techniques, and the seasons that you can put something beautiful on the table. This is when a vegetable kitchen becomes infinitely interesting and creative.
The older someone is, the more difficult it might be to change habits, to be open to innovation. The younger generations are more involved with the vegetable kitchen: For some because it is good for the planet, for others out of love for animals, and for others because it is healthy. Or just because it tastes good.
It is also particularly fun for children to be able to grow their own vegetables, maybe on a windowsill at home. When they see those tomatoes grow and change colour, see the flowers develop, they develop a bond with them. It gives them a completely different outlook on vegetables.
“It's all new, and not at all how we’ve learned it. But most chefs are open to learning, because they realise that this is the future. And that future is already here!"
And finally, what does the future of plant-based cuisine look like?
It depends on the country, but in general the vegetable kitchen continues to grow. In Belgium, for example, last year we saw for the first time that the percentage of meat sales fell by 8%. That's a serious figure.
I’m involved with Ekomenu, which supplies 100% organic packages to consumers in the Benelux, and in those countries you see that approximately 60% of customers order vegetarian or vegan meals. So there is a lot going on here too.
We are witnessing a similar kind of development in the Thalys train service where 50% of passengers currently opt for a 100% plant-based menu. Those too are numbers that say something.
A lot is happening right now. They say that a change is being made and that people are starting to approach food differently. We are increasingly aware of the importance of sustainability, health and ecology. [The epidemic] has added an extra dimension to this.
You can feel that we have entered a new era, where about 30% of the population is open to eating more plant-based foods and also going to those kinds of restaurants. Vegetables are now king and more and more people are incorporating plant-based foods into their weekly eating habits. Plant-based cooking is happening now, there is no turning back.
“You can feel that we have entered a new era...Plant-based cooking is happening right now, there is no turning back"
Where are the best vegetable restaurants in the world right now, and what kind of developments are going on? It will all be revealed this November in Barcelona with the prestigious We’re Smart® Awards 2022. Make sure to keep an eye out for our Timeless News update!
The Vegetables Chef®
Today, the trendiest and top culinary restaurants have a healthy menu with a high percentage of fruits and vegetables. Vegetables Chef® Frank Fol travels the world as an international advisor in the field of healthy, balanced and plant-based cooking.
Frank himself is the former owner of a Belgian Michelin star restaurant, Sire Pynnock, and he is a member of Worldchefs Feed the Planet. He is also Commander in the Order of Leopold, the highest and most important order in Belgium and is a UN Food Advocate of the World Food Programme.
His We're Smart® World initiative organises several award ceremonies every year, such as celebrating the new We’re Smart Green Guide, the new We’re Smart TOP100 for the best vegetable restaurants in the world and the We’re Smart Discovery Awards. It also holds the We're Smart Future Awards, which this year will take place at the Forum Gastronomic in Barcelona.
Inspirational Quotes: Reinventing Our Food
René Mathieu, La Distillerie, Luxembourg. Source: Michelin Guide
“Sustainability is life. I didn’t invent that, I just do what people have been doing for centuries. Eating what is available, what we find in the garden, the forest, by streams, etc. Nature is all around us. This concept also extends to the beverages, where we work with infusions, among others. Respect your environment."
De Nieuwe Winkel, Nijmegen, Netherlands. Source: De Nieuwe Winkel
“A new beginning. Let's look each other in the eye first. Am I what you are looking for? I'm not really a normal restaurant. Of course, I have food. Very nice food even. But I'm also trying to make you think. To marvel. To be surprised. What grows in your backyard is on my plate. Am I what you're looking for? Let yourself be surprised. Come in and taste."
El Invernadero, Madrid, Spain. Source: The future of food lies in plants, South China Morning Post (scmp.com)
“'The future of food lies in plants,' says Spanish chef Rodrigo de la Calle, a vegetable visionary. De la Calle doesn’t see such drinks as different from food, and refers to them as ‘cocina liquida’ (liquid cooking). ‘It’s one more dish, liquid or solid,’ he says, as I sip a bright orange (and surprisingly tasty) carrot wine. ‘What is in the cup is as important as what is on the plate.’”
Daniel Humm, Eleven Madison Park, New York, USA. Source: Eleven Madison Park
“It has been a year of immense learning, both culinary and academically. Stepping into this new chapter came mostly from a creative place and of course, also the need for the world to evolve towards a plant-forward future.... Food was, and will always be, our language to create change."
Noma, Copenhagen, Denmark. Source: Noma
“At Noma, we zoom into the natural world with a curiosity that turns small experiments into whole departments. From fermentation to foraging, each door opened for us opens countless more. And to be sure, we aren’t going to stop knocking."
The Goetheanum School of Spiritual Science from Switzerland is offering podcasts in the field of biodynamic agriculture. The science-based perspective of biodynamic agriculture is gaining popularity around the world. Not only does it offer high yields for anyone who applies it on their farm or garden plot in their garden, it's also good for the planet! It also runs courses, the last online course was on the same topic.
Podcast: Living Farms, biodynamic perspectives worldwide
Have you always wanted to find out what actually underlies biodynamic agriculture, how the research on this is carried out, how it has developed and who is currently leading the movement? Or are you interested in how biodynamic ideas such as the agricultural organism, land-based animal husbandry and the training of perception are currently put into practice in different parts of the world?
Then you have come to the right place. These podcasts are intended for all those who are curious to learn more about biodynamic agriculture and its approaches to solving our present-day problems.
Head over here to listen to some of the world’s most up-to-date podcasts on biodynamic farming
Online course: Planetary health, a biodynamic perspective
The Deepen Biodynamics online course offered by the Section of Agriculture at the Goetheanum shows that biodynamically cultivated soils can cope better with extreme events such as drought stress due to their higher humus content.
What: The farm organism for planetary health: A biodynamic perspective on climate change, ecological balance and the responsibility of farmers for our agricultural future
When: Finished this October 2022
Course description: In this online course the essential aspects of the biodynamic core concept will be presented and discussed. In addition to theoretical background knowledge, the course will pay special attention to presenting methods, tools and mindsets from worldwide biodynamic practice.This course is designed to support people who work in the field of biodynamic agriculture, and in particular advisory services, training, coordination or research. As the course is practice-oriented, farmers or people working in agricultural or environmental organisations are also highly welcome. More details can be found here.
The biodynamic farm approach: Thanks to the latest Goetheanum online training we can now all grow climate-resilient, healthy vegetables and play a role in a healthier future of the planet.
Whether we are a farmer with a lot of experience or someone with a vegetable garden: If we choose to use a biodynamic perspective, we can expect a more resilient crop, also in times of extreme climate. Plus, we will be doing our bit for the planet, says the Swiss Goetheanum School of Spiritual Science. So, the school is currently offering new online science-based courses and podcasts in the biodynamic farm approach. Now everyone in the world can get on board with this kind of "slow" farming.
We may know the highly-educated scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner from schools around the world that are based on his philosophy; where children are provided the space to develop their own potential. But, as the father of the biodynamic approach to agriculture? This may be new to most of us.
Be that as it may, according to the Goetheanum when we put Steiner's philosophies and agriculture together, we have the power and knowledge to cultivate a healthy crop that is resilient in all types of climate.
Climate change may be causing droughts, flooding and crop failures, the Rudolf Steiner biodynamic farm approach can also play a part in countering climate change. It can also improve the health of the planet, animals, nature and humans, argues the school, which has conducted its own research that shows that biodynamically-cultivated soils can cope better with extreme events such as drought stress due to their higher humus content.
A significantly different perspective
So, how does the biodynamic way of farming work? We could start by taking a look at the individual conditions of a particular region, a Goetheanum spokesperson explained. This in itself provides a significantly different approach to how farming is generally done.
"The starting point of biodynamic agriculture is understanding the existing situation and the local environment," explained Jean-Michel Florin in more detail. He is the joint leader of the Section for Agriculture at the Goetheanum, which is organising the new courses, and according to Florin, this is actually "an approach that enables the effects of climate change to be tackled."
The idea behind a dynamic type of farming is that everything is alive and undergoing change, and according to the Goetheanum, for a biodynamic farming approach we also need a bit of scientific knowledge, such as that related to the relationships between plants and soil. Having an understanding of the different biodynamic cultivation methods and animal husbandry, is another aspect of this kind of farming.
“The starting point of biodynamic agriculture is understanding the existing situation and the local environment"
Taking our sweet time
In addition, taking our time to absorb and learn about all of the aspects of this kind of farming is something that pays too, says the school. Lin Bautze, scientific co-worker in the Section for Agriculture explained further: "If we take time to observe our own farm carefully, we are investing in a resilient holistic farm concept." She added: "This is also apparent in the profitability of the farm. Biodynamic farms look after their soils, and invest in such things as crops that can cope better with drought stress and the effects of climate change."
Bautze herself has visited biodynamical farms and gardens all over the world and analysed their working methods, and she has documented her findings for an initiative called the Living Farms project. Reflecting on one of her visits to a farm in Lithuania, where cereal crops are grown without agrochemicals, she said: "The Martinelis family farm has very high yields compared to the regional average."
Now, with the new podcast and online science-based courses, the Goetheanum Section for Agriculture hopes all this knowledge and experience will be accessible worldwide to all those who are interested.
“The Martinelis family farm has very high yields compared to the regional average"
For more details go to:
Be among the first on board of an original, still developing, insightful magazine. Whether you are a writer, or an expert on a topic in a particular sector. Perhaps you are someone offering a service or a product. Whichever way, we have opportunities for us to work together. Our magazine is about what we can do for each other, for our readers, for the world. Let's join forces and create something together. Want to know more? Contact us now
Welcome to our website. Breaking Perspectives is an international, professionally-made magazine. It is brand new and still developing. It presents a variety of perspectives, often different to the norm. The content is about our daily lives. From health and the way the mind works, to aspects of our personal as well as working lives, and everything in between.
Our magazine is new in more ways than one. It is also new in approach and style. It is not a blog, it is not printed, nor does it fall under any particular classification. Our magazine is for everyone. Our editorial content does not offer a standpoint, it does not present any facts. It merely puts forward a variety of perspectives in all aspects of our lives.
Our content is insightful and upbeat. Breaking Perspectives is also a little philosophical. Whatever people read, see or hear on our site, we also hope it is inspiring and moving and that it gives them a feeling of emotional involvement. And, rather than drawing a conclusion, to become curious. We hope it encourages them to also read about featured topics elsewhere, to talk about them with friends or family.
For more information about our magazine and what it is about, click here.
Core readership: Our readers may be interested in all things psychology, self-development, and health of mind and body. They are interested in the world and all its cultural aspects. But our magazine is especially made to appeal to the kind of people who are not only analytical, but who also dare to look and think a step further. Beyond the obvious and the apparent.
Intermediate readership: Our 'intermediate' readers are people who are open to looking at life from different perspectives. To take a different approach to life. The door is already ajar for them.
Combined readership: What connects all our readers is a certain curiosity, an openness to new ways of thinking, doing and being. Whether they are university educated or not, whether they are spiritual or not, whether they are rich or poor. Whatever kind of background, they are people who would like to read something a little bit different.
Readers can expect a variety of content. There are background articles that are longer and well researched and offer deeper insights. In addition, there is also material that is shorter and lighter in nature, such as the Timeless News and the Random Posts. Then there is room for videos and other types of content.
Going forward, new content will be posted to the site every month, in addition to the incoming material in between.
- Feature article categories: Health & Mind, Work Life, Social & Relationships and Way of Life. There is also room for personal stories and for articles written by experts.
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- Random Posts: From recipes, home improvements and wacky reader ideas, to brain teasers and mind-boggling ways of thinking: Whatever we want it to be, looking through the lens of a new perspective.
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Either way, our Classifieds Ads give readers the opportunity to take action themselves. This can be, for example, after they have been inspired by an article on the site, where we help them on their way with a link that takes them to the advertisement.
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For many of us, seaweed as a food may still be quite a new concept. But as we're hearing more and more about its numerous health benefits, we also hear about its other possible applications and environmental benefits. Either way, from the sea to a product is quite a journey, and the Seagriculture Conference provides a place for the latest seaweed experts in the world to come together and help make that happen. Together, they discuss the future of seaweed, the latest innovations and the most up-to-date market solutions, both in Europe and the US.
This year, the eleventh edition of the Seagriculture EU Conference focussed on the cultivation of seaweed, and on the implementation of new, innovative approaches. It attracted 137 delegates from 18 countries to Bremerhaven, Germany, where the most up-to-date experts talked about various aspects of the seaweed sector: business, ecosystems, the social aspects, and environmental benefits. They also addressed seaweed farming on a large and small scale, and presented new sustainable solutions.
As consumers, we have come to love seaweed on our plates or in the form of supplements, for its taste as well as its impressive list of vitamins and minerals. Particularly Spirulina and Chlorella are popular and seaweeds, also known as edible microalgae, are said to have been part of our human diets since very early times, and researchers in Japan, Germany and USA have revealed how their nutritive value far outweighs that of conventional crops.
No mean feat
But seaweeds are also valued for other functional benefits. For example, microalgal biotechnology is considered as something that can assist in the achievement of a number of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals for natural resource management. These goals include zero hunger, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, responsible consumption and production, life below water and life on land. Which is no mean feat.
Experts are saying that microalgae can play a role in mitigating environmental impacts of our life on this planet, and help reduce our wasteful production processes. They are also discovering how novel microalgal products can help achieve environmental, economic and developmental goals, and that sustainably produced microalgal biomass can be used for energy, food and chemical development.
A taste for it in Europe
According to specialists, the demand for edible seaweeds in Europe, with its increasing appetite for supplements, a rise in health-consciousness, as well as a growing need for alternative proteins, is now increasing.
At this year's Seagriculture EU Conference special Innovation Awards, where some of the world's latest seaweed innovations were highlighted with new approaches to cultivating seaweed, the University of Gothenburg, for example, presented a sustainable way for large-scale biomass production. This is said to bring several advantages to the emerging European seaweed market.
SAMS Enterprise, a seaweed industry facility from the UK, also received an award for their work on The Seaweed Academy (TSA). Through its training, education, and business development, TSA too intends to enable growth of the sector and particularly of Europe’s position as a global innovation leader in this field.
The Seagriculture Conference takes place in both Europe as well as the US. The last Seagriculture Conference USA 2022 took place in September 2022 in Maine, USA, where experts put their attention on seaweed aquaculture in the USA, and when seaweed innovators from North and South America had an opportunity to compete for the Innovation Award.
The UK has become the backdrop of the biggest ever four-day week pilot in the world, as 70 companies and more than 3300 employees are trying their hand at a new way of working. The pilot is based on the idea that working less but smarter means not only no loss of pay, but also that workers stand to gain a lot in areas such as health and wellbeing. British workers are internationally known for putting in some of the longest hours a week, aka "all work and no play," and with any pilot programme designed to gain in many other aspects, participating workers can (hopefully) look forward to more spare time.
Each four-day-a-week pilot follows the '100% pay, 80% time, and 100% productivity' ™️ model, and instead of measuring a company's success by hours worked, it will be about results. The new way of thinking when it comes to our work week is from 4 Day Week Global, who have already led other programmes around the world. Businesses, employees, researchers and governments all have a role to play in creating the new workweek, the foundation argues, and a new business improvement strategy should focus on working smarter, not longer.
"After the international excitement over the success of our 2018 pilot in New Zealand, it became clear to Andrew and I there was a hunger for more information, research and support about how to successfully reduce work time without a loss in productivity or pay," Charlotte Lockhart, who together with Andrew Barnes established the initiative, told Breaking Perspectives. She continued: "And so the 4 Day Week Global Foundation was born. Through this we hope to change the world by changing the way the world works."
“ And so the 4 Day Week Global Foundation was born. Through this we hope to change the world by changing the way the world works"
The four-day workweek has reportedly boosted productivity in several industries around the world, but it will be especially interesting to see what happens in the UK as people are so used to working so hard. "We Brits are known for our nose to the grindstone attitudes," reported the UK Evening Standard for example on the UK’s trial, arguing how it has led to the economic powerhouse the UK is today. But the article also highlighted how this work setting has come at a cost, such as high levels of absenteeism, work-related stress and depression. Looking at potential positive and negative effects of the nationwide pilot project on the economy, worker relations, the planet and on life in London, the author went on to write: "It sounds like the stuff of dreams, but may soon be the stuff of reality."
What’s not to like
A range of benefits have already emerged from successful trials of four-day work weeks in, for example, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and Europe. Some of them have even been quite surprising. For example, studies have found that 78% of employees are reported to be feeling happier, more engaged at work and less stressed. Employees around the world would feel more energetic, efficient, stronger and more motivated at work. They also report higher job satisfaction, brand loyalty and organisational commitment, as well as improvements in work-life balance, wellbeing and improved physical and mental health.
There also appears to be a better division of care tasks between mothers and fathers, and the costs for childcare would decrease. In addition to statistics such as 63% of companies finding it easier to attract and retain talent, there are improvements in leadership, companies say it is easier to stand out, and be innovative and forward-thinking; plus there is talk of environmental benefits with less commuting and less energy consumption.
Investments will have to be made in the wellbeing of the most important assets of any company: the people of a company, says Lockhart. This new work paradigm offers the potential for improved business productivity and employee health, as well as stronger families and communities, the organisation has found through its pilots. The new way of working also offers opportunities for improved gender equality and a more sustainable work environment.