The Circle

This interview details The Circle, an indoor farming company based in Italy. The interview is with Thomas Marino, Co-Founder - Chief Strategy Marketing and Sales Officer at The Circle.

Source: The Circle

What is the origin story of The Circle?

The Circle is an agricultural company with a wealth of technological content. The Circle created a sustainable and competitive development model to produce top sustainable food without any negative impact on the environment. Founded in 2017 by 4 young men: Valerio Ciotola, Simone Cofini, Lorenzo Garreffa and Thomas Marino, the farm is now composed on two hectares of land, just outside Rome, with 5000 s/m2 of fully sustainable greenhouses daily active.

The Circle offers extremely high-quality products, cultivated in a completely innovative manner. The Circle boasts the first commercial aquaponic implant in Italy. The company was born to concretely solve nowadays problems such as the consumption of water and the lack of soil, the need of producing more food in less space. In fact, its main goal is to produce safe and healthy food and to offer a sustainable and competitive production model.

Source: The Circle

The technology used allows The Circle to cultivate entirely without soil, so it is possible to grow food even in contaminated lands. Therefore, The Circle proposes green solutions for restaurants, customers and institutions focusing on the quality of the product and the sustainability of the supply chain.

During these years the company has demonstrated its success in the sector of organic food and vertical farming thanks to the innovative technology developed.

Source: The Circle

What are some of the biggest challenges facing The Circle in the future?

The world is currently facing environmental challenges without precedent: soil erosion, water consumption and pollution have reached levels that are no longer tolerable. Countries and companies are being called on to act to resolve these problems, with no exceptions. Climate change and agriculture are strictly correlated and both of these problems happen globally. Studies show how traditional agriculture produces a significant effect on climate through the emission of greenhouse gasses, methane and nitrous oxide.

Those factors derive from anthropic activities and contribute to the acceleration of the deforestation and desertification processes. The last 5 years showed how vulnerable farming and food production are to climate change, but also just how much potential there is for farmers to be part of the solution. And while there were plenty of discouraging points and reminders of the urgent need for action along the way, there were also noteworthy companies that are making progress. Like us, The Circle.

Source: The Circle

As for that, we are now expanding our facilities by the construction of two new aquaponic production facilities for the restaurant industry (one in Rome and one in Milan), the expansion of production dedicated to processed products. The expansion to 5.000 sqm of the greenhouses of the Fontana Candida, where we are sited now, and to support the start-up of the distribution of the transformed aquaponic origin in large-scale retail trade.

Also, we are going to build Italy’s first biomimetic transformation implant for the production of aquaponic-origin pesto, oils, and flavored salts, which will be located in Abruzzo.

Source: The Circle

What is unique about The Circle compared to competitors?

While the demand for fresh and sustainable food is growing, customers keep choosing products that are known for their brand and not for the sustainable message that is behind. Also, these messages are not transparent. The Circle is the solution to these issues, thanks to its brand awareness, sustainable products and quality as distinctive features. Customers ask for transparency. The Circle wants and can be at the forefront to meet market needs, as the demand for sustainable products and services with a positive impact on the environment. It is also able to meet the evolution of market segments and to intercept the needs and purchasing behavior of consumers.

The advantages customers have back with The Circle’s products are many, such as top quality and high nutritional intake; high degree of sustainability, tested nickel free, low carbon footprint; sale price appropriate to the quality/price ratio; proven and customer service oriented.

Source: The Circle

All these aspects are linked together with the idea of sustainability that The Circle was born with. Also, we use no herbicides or chemicals to ensure the quality and safety of what we eat, and technology to make the job easier for workers, bringing up the made in Italy mark.

In addition to all of these, we must consider the high transparency that The Circle places on the entire production chain, which is able to ensure food safety and product traceability once placed on the market.

Source: The Circle

What are some other relevant metrics of the company (growing area size, production quantity, team size, etc.)?

The Circle produces top-quality food with innovative and sustainable technology. To do this, the company utilizes the aquaponic system: an agricultural technology that pairs aquaculture and hydroponics farming. This technology guarantees higher yields and more rapid growth of the plants under cultivation. In aquaponics, water circulates first from the fish tank to the plants and fertilizes them. Then, the cleansed water is channeled back to the fish. This enables it to recover all the water that the plants are unable to absorb; water consumption is thus reduced by 90% per kg of product compared to traditional agriculture.

The Circle itself developed the sensors for the NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) tower which is a vertical modular aquaponic/hydroponic system that can be used to grow top-quality herbs and vegetables. The innovation lies here: thanks to NFT, checked remotely by sensors, it is possible to plant everywhere, in an easy and sustainable way.

Source: The Circle

This kind of implant takes its cue from the hydroponic farming system, where it is possible to skip the soil, sub in a different material to support the roots of the plant and grow crops directly in nutrient-rich water. The innovation of the NFT is that the implant is modular and vertical, and the water circulates top-to-bottom channeled back to the fish tank.

The controlled environment and the virtuous closed-cycle system minimize the CO2 emissions ensuring a high quality of the final product. Here are the results in numbers of The Circle’s production:

For 1 Square Meter - NFT

Production: 600g/mq every 28 days

Water safe: 150l/sqm every month in comparison with traditional agriculture

Energy safe: using the solar panel

The Circles keywords are: High Productive, High Valuable. This system can work both with aquaponic and hydroponic productions. Also, compared to its competitors, The Circle has these competitive advantages: SellToRestaurants: Sustainable Production, Top quality of the product, Outstanding Customer Service Technology: Aquaponic to the fore, Strong Brand Reputation, Focus on top Restaurants.

Source: The Circle

What are some goals in 2024 and beyond for The Circle?

The new signed Series A round closed in September follows an equity crowdfunding round in July 2021 worth EUR 500,000 that had enabled the expansion to 5.000 sqm of the greenhouses of the greenhouses of the Fontana Candida, where we are sited now, and to support the start-up of the distribution of the transformed of aquaponic origin in large-scale retail trade.

The round was led by Opes Italia Sicaf Euveca, a venture capital fund operating in the field of impact investing. The resources will finance the construction of a new implant for the production of plants and herbs aromatic herbs of aquaponic origin intended for catering in the city of Rome, the conversion of the Fontana Candida site into a processing plant for pestos and processed products (a project supported also by INVITALIA in the context of Smart& Start, the incentive that supports the birth and growth of innovative start-ups and SMEs) and the construction of a new implant in Milan.

Source: The Circle

Thanks to the feedback received during the years, The Circle is structuring itself to realize a new successful Development Partnership model. Our goal is to raise many productive sites of The Circle located in Italy, Europe and all over the world.The Development Partnership model will allow us a faster growth and to enhance all the work done for our brand and market. This model will permit the realization of a new productive structure and a new distribution site, anticipating the needs of the European market and following the investment trend of the world. Aquaponic production, as The Circle intended it via its innovation, could also fit the needs of pharmaceutical industries by producing verified aromatic herbs, representing another business diversification able to open a new sales channel that keeps growing.

As innovators as other companies, we are now reforming our aquaponics implants by adding new technological greenhouses that will fill the gap between demand and production, so it will be possible to ensure fresh and healthy food all over the Country and to finally enter in the European Market.

We produce no waste or pollution. We aim to overcome the idea of Organic and impact for a process that brings a Positive Impact. The Circle must be an example of a new way of making business: environmentally aware, The Circle uses high technology and offers top-quality products to the market.

Source: The Circle

How can people connect with you or learn more about The Circle?

The Circle is by far the most talked-about new aquaponics company in Italy, distinguished by its well-known brand reputation dictated above all by its high visibility and continuous presence in the main mass media and online channels. Overall, more than 20 million people have become aware of The Circle and the values that this brand brings with it: innovation, sustainability, young entrepreneurship, Italian quality, ideas.

For this reason and to strengthen its sales channels, The Circle intends to exploit the multi-channel and multi-platform strategy it has adopted so far. A strategy that has led to winning results for the company's growth.

Source: The Circle

For this reason, and to strengthen our sales channels, we aim to develop an ever-stronger community that increasingly identifies us as a reference point for sustainable productions of the highest standard.

To get in touch and to be connected with us, we are online with our website, and with our social media pages: LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram.

Source: The Circle

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