Meracinque, started in 2017 by five sisters from near Verona, Italy, is a company with a truly extraordinary tale of a family and their connection to their homeland. The name of the company comes from their affectionate nickname for one another – mera from meraviglia, meaning wonder, and cinque, meaning five – and the agricultural innovations pioneered by the sisters, not to mention their superb Carnaroli rice products, express a unique story of their determination to contribute to and transform their heritage.
Meracinque produces Micro-Natural® Carnaroli rice using smart agricultural principles, helping propel it into a future of sustainable agriculture and enhancing the natural flavours and characteristics of the rice itself. They are among just 1% of Italian farmers using these techniques, and the incredible data they pull from the fields along with the rice is used to continually improve their harvest.
MOST POPULAR BY MERACINQUE
Along with Piemonte, the clay-loamy soil on the borders between Lombardy and the Veneto regions of Northern Italy have a long history of growing cereals. In the spot where Meracinque grow their rice, they have the added benefit of crystal clear water from Lake Garda used to irrigate the rice paddies. Meracinque is proud of their Micro-Natural® Carnaroli rice products: a result of almost eight years experimenting in the fields with new agro-technical methods. They started with a great base as their father had grown crops in the fields for decades before, never with a heavy use of chemicals, meaning the soil was fairly healthy.
Their products are able to be called micro-natural on account of the way they bio-control diseases which affect rice fields globally, without using chemical treatments. Japanese and Korean agronomists had been experimenting with effective microorganisms – live bacteria – that could be introduced to crops at a specific moment in the cycle to reinforce their immune system and promote healthy growth. After considerable experimentation, the lands Meracinque uses for cultivation are managed and fertilised with this organic substance, in combination with micronized rock dust from Austria, which have an overall positive impact even when the soil is resting. The emergence of different worms and butterflies every year demonstrate that the ecosystem is a very healthy one indeed.
The sisters of Meracinque are also strong proponents of what they call Agriculture 4.0, a combination of principles associated with a harmonious and interconnected use of different agro-technologies (the Internet of Farming), and precision agriculture. It also means a deep commitment to sustainable techniques, with as little waste as possible and reducing energy consumption at every stage of production. For example, before seeding, they scan the land with ground-penetrating electromagnetic radar to understand the specific soil composition of each area – to the square metre – for its mineral ratios and overall fertility. These results are supplemented by results from a partnership with a local university. Their seeding machine is then fed this data and uses GPS to plant seeds and optimise a more homogenous production for a better product overall.
The seeds are dry rooted at the beginning of April, before the rice paddies are filled with water from Lake Garda. This water is very clean, helping to prevent problems with the product. At the beginning of July, the microorganisms are sprayed on the rice shoots to reinforce their immune system and allowed to grow until the water is ready to be removed through irrigation channels. September is harvest time using a GPS-tracked harvester to map production data and learn about the crop to improve for next year. With around 70 hectares of productive fields, they harvest around 500 tonnes of rice, but can increase or decrease production flexibly.
The Carnaroli is dried using an advanced natural gas dryer – one of just two in the whole of Italy – at a low temperature so it doesn’t fracture or end up with hydrocarbon residues associated with standard rice you might find in the supermarket. It is then then left to mature. After years of experimentation, Meracinque found the sweet spot for maturation was twelve months, where it was observed that the rice retained a higher nutritional value, consistency, and starch content to enable it to cook evenly. The rice is then packaged by a partner next to the fields. It is not vacuum sealed and treated as though it were breathing, though in a controlled environment.
The Carnaroli grain that they produce is very popular with chefs. The grain is larger than normal and keeps extremely well. Due to the thickness of the husk, it doesn’t get overcooked very easily and the starch is released evenly during cooking. A classic risotto ingredient, the final texture is extraordinarily creamy, meaning you don’t need to use lots of butter or oil.
FEATURED BY MERACINQUE
MERACINQUE – SUSTAINABLE FAMILY FARMING
Meracinque’s rice uses the Micro-natural method, which takes advantage of naturally occurring micro-organisms and micronized rock dust to produce healthier soils and plants with a stronger immune system. The process is sustainable and the rice plants become more resistant to insects and pathogens without the use of any chemical treatments.
5 SISTERS – 5 WOMEN – 1 PASSION
Watch and discover the story, inspiration and passion of the five sisters behind Meracinque.
CARNAROLI RISOTTO RICE
This luxurious, delicious rice has a higher starch content and a firmer texture than the more common Arborio rice used for risotto. Hailed as the “king of rice,” Carnaroli keeps it shape better during the slow cook required for the perfect dish, delivering an exquisite al dente bite and a long creamy finish.
Benedetta, Silvia, Margherita, Anna, and Maria Vittoria grew up in the countryside between the cities of Verona and Mantua in the North of Italy. Despite dispersing to Milan, London and Paris to pursue education and different careers, home for them was always where they would gather around a table together to enjoy good food with their family.
A few years ago they started to look into breathing new life into their family’s decades-old agricultural business. Being agricultural entrepreneurs today doesn’t mean escaping the city for a more traditional bucolic lifestyle. Meracinque are innovators in what they term as Agriculture 4.0, combining traditional techniques with state-of-the-art farming technology to produce their exceptional rice.
In a traditionally male-dominated Italian agricultural industry, in the past women tended to work more on the production side – in the fields themselves – so one of the goals of the sisters of Meracinque was to redress this balance. As the business evolves, it is an objective with which they are having considerable success. Each with a business-related degree, every sister brings different specialist skills – one in charge of product development, another in branding, another in logistics, and so on. Their success so far is down to their fluidity.
|Strada Andrea Costa, 8, 46037 Roncoferraro MN, Italy|