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Food Company Makes Snacks That Promote Soil Health

Carina Ayden

There’s a growing concern on the speed with which we lose the top soil. It takes hundreds of thousands of years to form the soil. Soils is a non-renewable resource. Today, we lose 50% of topsoil due to monocropping, changing weather patterns and detrimental agricultural practices.

Pulses like peas and chickpeas do not need fertilizers, they bring nutrients to soil, help restore the acidity and pull nitrogen.

Carina Ayden, the Founder of Unimaginable Foods, reformulating traditional staple snacks to open more room for soil-healthy pulses.

Her pulses-based Unimaginable Bites is a hybrid between a cookie and a granola. The products focus primarily on gut biome health through the use of probiotics, prebiotics, and high fiber in the products. But the main mission is to push the demand for environmentally healthier ingredients like peas and chickpeas.

Carina, startups are hard. Food startups are even harder: FDA, regulations, dealing with inventory, logistics… What made you interested in creating a food company with a mission that seems so complex?

Before I knew the word “sustainability” I was already an environmentalist and a naturalist. I saw a Greenpeace commercial when I was a kid and the idea of human-made pollution became very disturbing to me. No matter what business I would have chosen, I would always try to find the ways we can innovate through the holistic lens of nature.

In 2016 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations released a report in which they stated that “Soil and pulses can make major contributions to the challenge of feeding the world’s growing population and combating climate change”.

I read that report and did my own research on everything “pulses”: the agricultural practices, the nutrition, and the ability to solve world hunger, production challenges etc.

I saw the opportunity, the white space, if you will. The idea of carving out more space for healthier crops within the traditional snacks category was enticing. The breakfast snack category was interesting to me: it was dominated by processed snacks, full of empty calories and sugar. A few years prior I worked with chickpeas for another startup as a consultant on R&D and discovered even more versatility of this wonderful plant.

That’s how the first-ever pulse-based granola bites were born.

How is the soil benefiting from the process of growing chickpeas and peas?

Pulses are environmentally resilient crops, make our diets more nutritious and make soil in which they grow more nutritious, too. They are also great carbon sequesters!

Pulses such as peas, chickpeas, lentils, benefit the soil because of their unique ability to fix nitrogen. Therefore pulses do not require synthetic fertilizers as other crops. This helps nourish the soil and create better growing conditions for other plants. According to FAO “cereals grown after pulses yield approximately 1.5 tonnes more per hectare than those not preceded by pulses, which is equal to the effect of 100 kilograms of nitrogen fertilizer.” Considering that fertilizers are horrible to human health and also degrade the soil it’s an exciting statistic!

Pulses require less water which makes them a good drought-prone crop.

Do you want to cooperate with the bigger players like Nestle, Unilever or Beyond Meat on working on the mission of sustainable food production?

 Absolutely. More power behind small sustainable brands means a better world for all of us.


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