News | 11 Jun 2024

Inspirational idea: Croatian farm promotes regenerative agricultural practices

Maintaining soil health is central to the management of this organic farm which grows a wide range of crops, sells directly, transforms the products, and even supplies its own restaurant.

2 persons presenting a group outside

‘Zrno eko imanje’ is a farm in Croatia that has been applying regenerative agricultural practices since 1988. Maintaining a high level of soil health without the use of artificial fertilisers and chemical pesticides is central to young farmer David Pejić’s management of the company, “For us, the objective of regenerative organic agriculture is to ensure the health of the soil as well as protecting the environment. Our goal was to create a holistic system that would enable us to remain in control of the entire production cycle, from farm to fork.” The company not only grows fruit and vegetables, has a food processing plant and a bakery, but also runs a restaurant in nearby Zagreb.

The farm grows over 60 different kinds of organic vegetables, fruits, legumes and cereals. The farm has two systems, one for products destined to be fresh produce, and the second for processed products. For the supply of fresh vegetables and herbs, crops are grown in a bio-intensive vegetable garden and in greenhouses, a cultivation method that combines the principles of regenerative organic agriculture and soil conservation techniques with a high density and diversity of planted species. The arable crops and other vegetable crops used for processing are produced in a five-crop rotation, with continuous alternation of cover crops and crops for green fertilisation. In both systems, heavy tillage such as ploughing is avoided, as is the application of any inputs which could be harmful to human health or the environment. David’s philosophy for the farm is: “We grow our vegetables in a system that is designed to value human labour and input. The methods we apply guarantee the highest quality of agricultural crops, but also environmental restoration and the protection of the health of the soil.”

In terms of weed control, the farm uses methods such as occultation, mechanical cultivation and deep compost mulching (DCM) as the primary method in the bio-intensive garden. For pest control, anti-insect netting is installed in the bio-intensive garden and greenhouses, and the multiple cycles of planting in rotation also help reduce the risk of pest pressure. In terms of water management, the farm has an artesian well, drop-to-drop irrigation, spray irrigation, filtration technology, and more. Compost production, installing hedges and insect hotels are among the techniques used to promote soil health and fertility, as well as biodiversity.

The farm carries out food processing activities on-site. David says: “In all our processing facilities we use only organic raw materials that guarantee us quality and nutritional value. Also, the main ingredient of almost all our products is agricultural crops from our own fields.” The focus is on tradition and innovation. The on-site bakery produces bread, pastries, sandwiches and salads, all in small batches to minimise waste. Traditional local specialities are made, such as Kayu bread with brown rice, and Piraž bread from spelt and rye. In 2013 they added a 100% organic vegan bistro in Zagreb to their range of activities to ensure food gets straight from the farm to the consumer.

Also in 2013, David and his team decided to communicate with their customers more directly to showcase the values of the farm and to share knowledge and innovative practices with other farmers. They offer a range of educational visits on specific topics including ‘bio-intensive organic production’ and ‘planning, crop rotation and software tracking’.

In 2022, David Pejić won the European Commission award for "Best European organic farmer".

We feel it is important to welcome others to our farm so that we may work together in creating quality food while preserving the diversity and sustainability of our ecosystem. David Pejić