bio-familia is a pioneer of organic farming in Switzerland. Its Bircher müesli, launched in 1959 under the ‘familia’ brand name, was the first organic-grade convenience product on the market. At the time, organic fruit and vegetables were still scarce, so bio-familia supported its production with cultivation contracts.
To this day, we encourage the cultivation of organic fruit and grain through indirect agreements with Swiss organic farmers.
There are many different organic standards, and we make our choices based on our customers’ wishes. familia organic müeslis are produced to the specifications of the Knospe label.
The soil below our feet is essential to life on Earth – and it supplies the main ingredient in bio-familia Müesli: grain. But the condition of agricultural soil in Switzerland is worrying. We therefore make efforts to protect it. Such as by investing in regenerative agriculture, a highly innovative method that not only protects damaged and overused agricultural soil but also ‘repairs’ it. At the same time, it promotes biodiversity, supports a healthy water supply and helps to protect the climate.
Healthy soil is needed for a number of important tasks:
Our soil is in poor health. It has suffered a lot in recent decades due to being overused. Invasive farming techniques such as mechanical ploughing, combined with excessive use of artificial fertilisers, hinder humus formation and upset the balance of the ecosystem. As a result, the soil is gradually becoming less fertile.
Regenerative agriculture ‘repairs’ this damage. The soil is managed on an ongoing basis in such a way that humans and nature both benefit from agriculture over the long term.
‘Conventional farming has reached the end of the road. Using the soil in this intense way is increasingly hindering the growth of healthy crops. There is an urgent need for alternative, innovative solutions. Organic farming only accounts for around 13% of Swiss food, which means it alone cannot solve this enormous challenge. Regenerative agriculture offers a new way forward for Switzerland. This science-based method is aimed at restoring our soil.
Regenerative agriculture therefore makes an important contribution towards healthy food, climate protection and biodiversity. We are making a big commitment to promoting regenerative agriculture together with the association Agricultura Regeneratio.’
The bio-familia management board
It is mainly about how arable land is cultivated and managed, and what is used for this. It makes use of natural processes in the environment. Artificial fertilisers and invasive cultivation methods are gradually phased out.
Soil should always have something growing in it. Fallow, bare fields are not natural. They warm the air and can no longer regulate the water during heavy rainfall.
One method for preventing this is undersowing, which involves sowing at least two crop species in quick succession. After the first one has been harvested, the second one stays in the ground and continues to cover the soil, so that it is not left fallow. This is important, as the soil needs crops and their roots to form humus and develop nutrients. If a lot of the soil is covered, it promotes biodiversity – especially if a wide variety of species are being grown in it.
Healthy soil is full of small animals, fungi, plants and other organisms. These are important for water supply and nutrient development. If the soil is ploughed too deep, these organisms are killed. An earthworm lives around 20 cm below the surface, which means it falls victim to most ploughing machines. That is why artificial fertiliser is often used to replace the functions that these natural organisms would have otherwise performed. At the same time, the CO2 stored in the humus is released again.
In regenerative agriculture, care is therefore taken to not plough too often and – more importantly – not too deep. One method is direct sowing, which involves only digging a shallow furrow for the seeds, rather than ploughing up the whole surface.
The natural soil regeneration process is very slow. It takes ten times longer to regenerate than it does to degrade. The process is therefore accelerated with natural fertilisers. The most common ones are slurry and farmyard manure, which are also used in organic farming.
Artificial pesticides can be substituted with ‘compost tea’. This strengthens the crops’ defences from the inside, kind of like a vitamin. The microorganisms in the liquid make the crops more resistant to fungal diseases and pest infestation.
Regenerative agriculture doesn’t just cause less harm to soil, environment and climate – it actually benefits them.
bio-familia has joined forces with the association Agricultura Regeneratio LINK to promote regenerative agriculture in Switzerland. Since 2022, as part of its mass balance approach, bio-familia has been sourcing grain from farms that use regenerative agriculture techniques. A farm can’t just switch to regenerative production overnight – it requires a lot of knowledge, experience and time. bio-familia therefore pays all farmers a premium on the quantities that they produce and sell on the market.
To receive this premium, the farms have to work out their climate footprint, conduct soil testing and digitally record their crop yields. The experts at Agricultura Regeneratio analyse the data and offer the farms specialist support.
In the first year (2022), four farms produced different types of grain for bio-familia.
bio-familia’s measurements show that our carbon footprint is biggest for indirect emissions. Müesli ingredients such as grain, dried fruit and almonds are the main causes of this, not least because of their high water consumption.
We therefore target those areas where we can make a difference together with farmers and our raw material suppliers. We have faith in the natural, science-based approach of regenerative agriculture. When the soil is healthy, so are we. We therefore want to see more farms switch to regenerative agriculture. And we would also like more food companies to promote regenerative raw material production – because we can only change things for the better by working together!