Although it sounds a bit cliché, Agriloops’ business model is anything but.
The startup is developing saltwater aquaponics: a circular system in which fish (shrimp, in this case) and vegetables grow together.
Shellfish waste is transformed into fertilizer for growing plants, including mesclun, cherry tomatoes and aromatic herbs, which are cultivated on the surface and require less water.
“We went to different specializations. Romain has opted for aquaculture and seafood, and I have chosen production and plant protection, ”said Jérémie Cognard, co-founder and CEO of Agriloops, in an interview with EURACTIV France.
“Aquaponics has been developed for years, but not for production purposes. To be profitable, it was necessary to find a species with high added value, preferably marine. And therefore develop a salt water system, ”he added.
Fresh and local
Shrimp quickly became the popular choice. According to a 2017 study by FranceAgriMer, the French consume nearly 120,000 tonnes of shrimp per year. This is enough to ensure the profitability of their business, but also its sustainability.
However, most of the shrimp consumed in France is imported. In 2015, 36% came from Ecuador, followed by India and Madagascar.
Intensive shrimp farming in the tropics is responsible for the destruction of mangrove areas, ecosystems essential to marine life in which fish come to spawn.
“Agriloops offers consumers a more environmentally friendly alternative”, as well as “French shrimp raised without antibiotics which are never frozen”, notes the startup.
20 tonnes of crustaceans per year
To carry out their project, the agricultural engineers have launched a pilot farm within their school, “to experiment with our model and learn to master the process”.
After three years of analysis, they are now aiming to launch their own operation, with a name worthy of a Silicon Valley company, “Mangrove 1”.
By 2021, this farm should be operational with an ambitious production target: “20 tonnes of shrimp and 40 tonnes of vegetables per year, for full productivity in 2022”, announced the enthusiastic engineer.
While shrimps remain their flagship product, Cognard does not exclude the diversification of production to include other marine species.
The COVID-19 health crisis unfortunately hampered their project, as it did for many other companies.
“We were supposed to install the farm in 2020, but in the end, it will be by 2021”, explained Cognard.
Regardless of the current circumstances, the success story has been launched and, at a time when organic farming is booming, the two engineers are now planning to obtain either an HVE (High Environmental Value) certification or an ASC sustainable aquaculture label. .
[Edited by Natasha Foote/Zoran Radosavljevic]