Agricool: Giving Birth to Urban Agriculture
Urban centralization has taken its toll on fresh food, leaving no room for the production of fresh and organic fruits and vegetables in large cities. Food needs to grow faster and better - and modern chemicals are all too glad to help!
Pesticides cause a continual nutriment decline that impairs produce in every aspect imaginable - taste, quality, and ultimately, even nutrition.
When Guillaume Fourdinier and Gonzague Gru came into the picture, agriculture seemed destitute of taste. As two people who grew up on farming and agriculture, Guillaume and Gonzague dreamed of bringing tasty, pesticide-free food back in fashion and making it widely accessible.
What was once a teenage dream eventually grew into an elaborated concept of providing big cities with fresh, local and most importantly, natural foods. Replacing shipping containers with good ole’ cultivation seemed like a dull plan, and yet, it helped two farm-born boys to quickly rise from the shadows and develop a global brand.
Read on to learn how Guillaume and Gonzague gave traditional agriculturing the comeback it deserved:
Turning Over a New Leaf
Passing every moment of his childhood running through wide green fields for Guillaume meant tasting delicious food at every walking corner. Make no mistake, Guillaume was well aware of the blessing that comes with being born in a place befriended by nature.
However, if he wanted to urge others to fall in love with nature’s nurturing ways, he would have to abandon his safe haven and join the urban business show- and join, he did.
The second he got acquainted with big city life, Guillaume knew he was entering a whole new world where freedom existed not. And while navigating the narrow streets was an obstacle in itself, Guillaume mostly struggled with the way urban food tasted - like plastic, and not much else.
Hard as it was to adjust to the chance, Guillaume firmly pursued his dream of producing something bigger, more essential to the world. To make it happen, he enrolled in IESEG School of Management to study business. During his student years, he created a small company called Tombapik - a platform that helped students easily find affordable housing. Tombapik didn't rely on employees and it was solely governed and managed by Guillaume, which did wonders for his real-life business experience.
However, in 2013, after his graduation, Guillaume wished to do something more ambitious. As a result, he immersed himself in commercial activities for the pharmaceutical industry and spent two years in the field, all the while gathering practice in sales and growing entrepreneurship wisdom.
It was around this time that Guillaume met Gonzague, a fellow who shared almost the same background and childhood dreams as Guillaume. Being a farmers’ child, Gonzague sought a way to climb the social ladder by graduating from lEDHEC Business School and quickly dove into the world of commercialism by joining Pharmagest Interactive.
Working on the same project in the company, Guillaume and Gonzague saw in each other a familiar vision in need of realization.
Through Thick and Thin
Rumour has it, our world will witness a massive rise in population of 10 billion people in the foreseeable future. What that also means is that all-natural foods would be impossible to grow in metropolitan areas. If quality of life was what humankind was after, then a move from the urban chaos was due to take place.
But, as both Guillaume and Gonzague loved Paris, moving out of the city was out of the question.
Ultimately, the duo figured that if Muhammad couldn’t come to the mountain, the mountain would have to come to Muhammad.
Having shared nostalgia for greenery and nature, the pals and business partners brought the countryside closer to the city and started growing strawberries in a small apartment. Delicious as their fruits were, Guillaume and Gonzague realized that Paris is not real-estate heaven, with apartment prices escalating by the minute. Suddenly, growing a business of growing crops, and doing it out of an apartment seemed both unprofitable and limited.
After brainstorming ideas for hours on end, Gonzague birthed an idea that grasped Guillaume's attention - transforming old containers into viable units where strawberries would grow. This would not only solve their savings issues, but would also address the numerous existential concerns of modern-day consumption.
If the idea comes to fruition, both thought, they would make the containers eco-friendly, and compactly place them at every location they saw fit.
Little did they know that out of their inkling of an idea, a substantial enterprise would soon be shaped, and it would use means no one has even thought of before.
Realization of the Idea
Early in 2015, the French duo quit their commercialist jobs in Pharmagest Interactive. Possessing management and sales experience, they decided to enforce the plan of cultivating agricultural products in recycled containers. For months, the young entrepreneurs studied how to turn every inch of the containers into productive pieces of land, whilst creating optimum conditions for growth. Revising every detail- from the longevity of one-cycle harvest to providing the ideal climate conditions- they encountered a watering issue that if left unsolved, might bring them back to zero.
But there was no time for turning back, nor quitting. After extensive research, the team found that using a closed-loop circulation system would not only solve their limited space problem but also help save water. In fact, this system could give all nutrients to the growing fruits, all the while wasting 99% less water than traditional farming.
However, another drawback- still unseen in the countryside- was the high level of pollution dominating Paris. As crafty problem solvers, Guillaume and Gonzague decided to lessen pollution by using air filtration, thus diminishing the chance of toxins penetrating their containers.
Space-wise, the businessman wanted to use the lock, stock, and barrel of the container, so vertical farming became their next best option. Nevertheless, this raised yet another issue for them- paying enormous electricity bills. As the last concern to tackle before the launch, the duo pulled another trick from their sleeves and turned to renewable energy.
Alas, their baby project was ready to set sail into the fancy business waters, and a brand new venture peeked across the horizon!
Transforming Urban Agriculture
With the company nesting in a new facility, which still serves as Agricool’s HQ today, the business partners raised their first €500k. This financial encouragement allowed them to seek new engineers and agronomists to help expand and fortify their business.
Surprisingly, the company received more than 800 applications in a month, which were ultimately narrowed down to 30 of the most suitable candidates. In 2016, the second round of funding came, worth €4 million, and immediately followed by another, this time worth €8 million.
With this kind of funds raised, Agricool started manufacturing 30-square-meter containers, thus producing a 4000-square-meter worth of farmed strawberries.
The last round of funding was raised in 2018, estimating a phenomenal €25 million, leaving Agricool with a total earning of €37.5 million, funded by eleven different investors.
Nowadays, more and more angels are ardent to invest in the mission that is efficiently changing the dynamics of food distribution worldwide.
Nowadays, Agricool grows a wide range of fruits and vegetables, both in Paris and Dubai, and only 15 km away from urbanism. The main focus of the company is still strawberry farming, with no less than 7 tons of the fruit produced annually. Naturally, this brought Agricool over €1.5 million in revenue and ensured them a total of 100 loyal employees.
As the tale of recultivating two cities continues, Agricool still keeps its eyes on the prize and continues to aim for global impact, brought closer to home.