Juicing Sustainably: Veggie Wave

When childhood friends Riccardo Ferragamo (24) and Niccolo Bagarotto (23) met while surfing off the coasts of Italy, they couldn’t imagine that a few months later they will be building an electricity-free portable juice maker.

Today their waste-free, electricity-free and plastic-free juice kiosk is attracting more and more fans as they travel the south coast of Europe. They are now spreading the Veggie Wave vibes on the beaches of Portugal and hoping to launch a work away program. We spoke to Riccardo and Niccolo about their favourite juice recipes, next travel destinations and plans for the future.

How was Veggie Wave born? Why did you choose to make it sustainable?

Riccardo and Niccolo: The story is quite funny. We were good friends when we were very young and then lost touch for 15 years. Then we met up again and realised we had so much in common. We started hanging out, travelling together, surfing. We wanted to spend a summer surfing somewhere in Europe, but while doing that also do something constructive. That’s when we decided to create something that can sell juices around European surf spots, and do it in the most friendly way towards nature. Nature was what let us have fun, we would never do anything that would ruin it.
Of course, sustainability was in our minds from the beginning, also from a practical point of view: we wanted to set up a kiosk wherever we wanted. so we couldn’t have electricity. So we built the kiosk in Italy between Florence and Bologna, which are our hometowns. We loaded it into a van and drove it to Portugal. It was quite exciting.
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IN THE PHOTO: Veggie Wave kioskPHOTO CREDIT: Riccardo Ferragamo.

What are your professional backgrounds?

R: I graduated in business administration in the US, worked for several fashion brands in marketing department during college, did a real estate renovation project in Florence and then worked in consulting for McKinsey for a year.
N: I was a music producer and a DJ, playing every night, then I reached a point when I realised it wasn’t the life I wanted. I was sick of the drink-drug-people life.
I decided to introduce myself to the culinary life. I studied at the Cordon Bleu in London and I worked as a chef for the last 4-5 years, until the time I met Ricky, and I realised that my time in the kitchen was enough. With Veggie Wave the connection with music, the passion for food – everything came together and came to have a reason.

What is sustainability to you in the context of the work that you do?

N: Sustainability for us comes from our deep connection with nature. We are both surfers and we both build our relationship with water, it’s very hard to find this feeling anywhere else. Surfing to me was the key to getting connected with nature. Having such an incredible moment in the water gives you an unconscious feeling of respecting the ocean.
It changed my everyday life, too. A little example: I am not trying to make others stop using plastic, but at least when I go to the supermarket I don’t take plastic bags anymore, when I brush my teeth I turn the tap off. Just having a moment of consciousness every day. It’s very easy to care.
IN THE PHOTO: Veggie Wave kioskPHOTO CREDIT: Riccardo Ferragamo.
So we started a sustainable business because we are living sustainable lives. We didn’t think of Veggie Wave as a business to be sustainable, we just couldn’t imagine it being any different from that.

Surfing inspired your everyday lives, too?

N: It completely changed our lives. We sometimes laugh that we can have a lot of stuff to do, but when the forecast is sending some good waves, we kind of structure our week around it. The name of the kiosk reflects the vibe we want to give off. The music that is playing, the atmosphere – they give the customers the same feeling that we have when we surf. Veggie Wave is about having fun, respecting the nature, drinking healthy juices, being simple but respectful.

What is most important for you in this venture? What is most fulfilling for you in this job?

R: I love seeing people that work with us being devoted and enjoying their life thanks to something we created.
Of course, there is time for surfing, but you also need to make sure you do something every day that brings you closer to your goal.
IN THE PHOTO: Riccardo FerragamoPHOTO CREDIT: Riccardo Ferragamo.


N: I have been working as a chef for the past 5 years of my life. I’ve always been dealing with food. With Veggie Wave I had the chance to move away from the kitchen and be directly in front of the customers. It’s amazing, I can make my recipes, talk to my customers, listen to them, explain to them why I make things this way or the other. Usually, the chef is stuck in the kitchen, and there is so much that is missing. Kiosk for me was the first time that I had a real relationship with my customers, surrounded by the place that we built together, chose every colour, the carpet. Every single thing had a big meaning to us: even the music we played.
IN THE PHOTO: Niccolo BagarottoPHOTO CREDIT: Riccardo Ferragamo.
R: Yes, we actually have a playlist, you can find it on Spotify.

Tell me about the process, how does the juice go from the farm to the cup?

N: I have to be honest, when I started to dream about the process of Veggie Wave, I thought that I could have one farmer-supplier, that all food was going to be locally grown. In actual fact, it’s quite hard. Especially because one of the main ingredients we use in ginger, and we have to import it from Peru. But we are currently in a very rich country, Portugal: we find amazing bananas in the south, we find oranges from Algarve, ones of the best in Europe. For the last kiosk, we were actually buying the fruit, picking them from 2 or 3 different farmers.
The idea is to have someone who is responsible for picking all the best ingredients from celery, kale, spinach, fruits, and then bringing them to the storage. There, we treat them and keep all the waste, re-using it for other products as tea-bags. Our goal is to try and use as much as we can. Even the orange zest can be used to make jams.We are operating on a zero-waste basis. Everything is gold and what we won’t use we will give back to agriculture.
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IN THE PHOTO: Veggie Wave kioskPHOTO CREDIT: Riccardo Ferragamo.
R: This is one of our three milestones, one of the things that characterises us as a zero-impact company. We don’t use electricity, we don’t produce any waste and we don’t use plastic. So literally our kiosk could be set up on a rock in the middle of the ocean and it would work with no need for power.

How do you replace electricity and plastic?

R: The bicycle is connected to the blender and the extractor, so when the wheel of the bicycle does one lap, the extractor does 10. We have now added a new feature to the mechanism: it will recharge the music speakers and the iPad. Instead of plastic, we use this material that looks exactly like plastic but in reality, it’s rice flour. And it’s completely compostable. If you leave it on a beach, in 80 days it will disappear.

Who are usually the people that come to your kiosk?

R: We locate ourselves in touristic spots. There are generally two types: those who want to pedal the bicycle and those who don’t. The thing is that those who don’t are usually just shy, but when they connect with our energy, they just jump on the bike and they pedal their own juices.
IN THE PHOTO: Veggie Wave kioskPHOTO CREDIT: Riccardo Ferragamo.

Tell me about the challenges that you faced along the way.

R: I will say that there were two practical challenges that were present. First one was finding the right mechanism that would allow us to connect the juice maker to the bicycle. Because neither of us is an engineer and we designed it ourselves, it wasn’t easy at the beginning. The second one was to find the licences to operate. Unfortunately, you have to deal with city halls and sometimes they are not so easy.
Finally, the relationship with your partner. It’s very hard to live, work and do everything with one person in the long term. Obviously, the key is to understand and accept other’s negative points, try to combine them with yours.
What’s your favourite juice?
R: I like the Purple Haze: it has beetroot, ginger, orange and basil.
N: I like the Veggie Wave, so proud of it actually. We make recipes based on the season. So in July we had the best nectarines in Portugal, waited for them to ripen, added squeezed orange, peach and some turmeric and a little bit or rosemary. You think of India while still tasting Mediterranean flavours.
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IN THE PHOTO: Veggie Wave kioskPHOTO CREDIT: Riccardo Ferragamo.

Where do you see yourselves in 5 years?

R: Quite simply, we discovered that to be able to sell a lot of juices and to create the right energy, you need to have new people who have a lot of stories to tell. So our idea is to create a chain of kiosks in locations near the ocean and have an HQ that rules everything: the storage, that also provides accommodation and food for travellers that can stay for the season and run the kiosk. That’s our dream, that’s our vision and of course implementing it is going to take time. But we are working hard to implement this and hopefully, in a year we will have created this chain in Portugal, and then in the next year replicated the same model in other locations in Europe. Like a work away program.
Maybe you could also give surfing lessons?
R: Of course, that’s already included in the package.
N: Absolutely, it’s either you already surf or you want to learn, otherwise you’re not invited!
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IN THE PHOTO: Riccardo and NiccoloPHOTO CREDIT: Riccardo Ferragamo.

About the Author /

Born in Moscow, raised in Ljubljana and London, and now discovering Rome, Alexandra is a hopeless adventure-seeker. A graduate of International Relations from the London School of Economics and a strong believer in the power of words, she chose to pursue a career in journalism. In her free time, she’s an avid language learner, an amateur filmmaker and a bookshop raider.

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