‘Urban farming is becoming a reality’: Agricool completes €25m funding round
The group, which currently grows strawberries in urban farms that are converted shipping containers around Paris, said the $28m capital injection comes on the back of $13m previously raised to support development.
New investors include Bpifrance Large Venture Fund, Danone Manifesto Ventures, Antoine Arnault via Marbeuf Capital, Solomon Hykes, and a dozen other “business angels”. The existing investors, which include daphni, XAnge, Henri Seydoux and Xavier Niel via Kima Ventures, also participated in this new funding round.
Local, sustainable and nutritious
Agricool said that the cash will help accelerate its mission to make “excellent, pesticide-free fruits and vegetables accessible to all”.
“Our mission is really to be able to grow locally tasty fruits and vegetables, that have a high nutritional value,” Agricool chief marketing officer Josephine Ceccaldi told FoodNavigator.
Over the past three years, Agricool’s team has developed a technology to grow fruits and vegetables more productively and within small and controlled spaces, known as “Cooltainers” - recycled shipping containers transformed into urban farms.
Agricool strawberries are harvested when “perfectly ripe” and contain on average 20% more sugar and 30% more vitamin C than supermarket strawberries, the company claimed.
As well as improving the availability of fresh produce in urban areas, Agricool also wants to decrease the environmental impact of production. By locating urban farms in population centres Agricool is able to cut its transportation footprint.
The group’s IP-protected technology also enables it to grow produce using fewer resources, Ceccaldi continued. “We're using 90% less water than traditional agriculture for example.”
“Some of our techniques are protected with IP as our technology is quite unique. We're using aeroponics for example, and not hydroponic. We have developed our own LEDs lights to enable [increased] intensity, while decreasing the cost and the energy consumption.”
The use of aeroponic techniques means that, while Argicool's strawberries are grown without pesticides, they cannot be certified organic in Europe.
Leading a ‘booming’ market
According to forecasts from the United Nations, in 2030, 20% of products consumed worldwide could come from urban farming, compared to just 5% today.
Agricool wants to take advantage of this growth potential by leading the development of the market in France and internationally. The funding round will allow the company to increase production by 100 times by 2021, Agricool said.
“Our product are currently sold in Monoprix - a French urban retailer chain - but we're planning to extend our distribution POS as we will extend our production,” Ceccaldi revealed.
As the converted shipping containers are deployed – first in France and then internationally starting with Dubai – the group expects to recruit 200 people who will act as “market gardeners of the future”.
“We are very excited about the idea of supporting urban farming towards massive development, and it will soon no longer be a luxury to eat exceptional fruits and vegetables in the city,” noted Guillaume Fourdinier, co-founder and CEO.