The emergence of urban farming has been tipped as a future disruptor of the food chain. Urban farms are bringing food closer to city-dwelling consumers, providing them with access to fresh, organic, local produce.
Peas & Love, which was founded in 2015 by Belgian entrepreneur Scheepers, operates four such urban farms in Paris and Brussels. The organic farms are designed using vertical production techniques that incorporate the principles of permaculture.
Peas & Love opened its fourth urban farm in Paris on the roof of the Yooma Hotel in May.
The start-up currently operates a total of 600 plots, covering a planted area of 2,000 metres squared, which are cultivated through a collaboration between local residents and a so-called “community farmer”, an agricultural engineer. With fresh financial backing, Peas & Love is plotting a major European expansion drive.
“Peas & Love is already established in Belgium and France. The next European countries in which we want to develop in the short term are: the Netherlands, Luxembourg, the UK and Germany. The goal in five years: 150 farms in Europe, including 30 in Paris and Ile de France,” Scheepers explained.
Peas & Love has raised €1.2m in funds. Its supporters include Paris Business Angels and Otium Brands, an investment vehicle focused on supporting the development of disruptive concepts in areas like what it terms “the cities of the future”, which it believes will be “people-centric, sustainable and focused on well-being”.
"We have now demonstrated the relevance of the business model and, with the support of our financial partners, have the will to strengthen our teams and expand to the European level,” Scheepers revealed.
Antoine Régis, principal at Otium Brands, said the Peas & Love project is “emblematic” of Otium Brands' investment thesis, which sees it support new brands that are “rethinking traditional distribution and consumption models, customer experience and the societal or environmental impact at the heart of their value proposition”.
Urban farms: ‘A solution for the future’
According to Scheepers, the concept of Peas & Love was born from “the mix of my two passions for nature and healthy cooking”.
“Peas & Love installs its farms on non-valued urban spaces, such as roofs, and relies on new technologies to create a unique, sustainable a concept, as part of a circular economy approach.”
Through its network of “community farmers” Peas & Love hopes to strengthen local communities as well as improving access to affordable, healthy, fresh and organic food.
The group aims to tap into three trends: the growing popularity of organics, consumer scepticism of the extended supply chain and the importance of “giving nature more of a place” in city life.
Pointing to the fact that more than 80% of the French population live in cities, Scheepers noted that traditional food distribution models fail to provide the majority of the population access to “quality local products in traditional stores". Urban farms reduce shorten the "farm to fork" supply chain and deliver on traceability, he suggested.
“The societal impact is at the heart of the project. [There is] a particular focus on health through the nutritious supply of products, support for better nutrition, the dissemination of good practices during workshops and the daily support of the project community farmer, the agricultural engineer in charge of the maintenance of the site.”