Jun 22, 2022
Perfumes & Pharmaceuticals: How Vertical Farms Are Disrupting Industries
From Finance to Vertical Farming
With his background in finance, Gilles picked up an interest in vertical farming when the Financial Times wrote an article about the pending food crisis, specifically our lack of ability to feed a population of 9 billion by 2050. Entranced by this new terminology and concept, Gilles researched day and night to better understand vertical farming. Gilles says that ““I had a shock, and knew right then and there that I wanted to dedicate my life to finding solutions to produce and grow healthy food in large volume.”
After getting into contact with the famous Dickson Despommier, author of “The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century,” Gilles grew his network of CEA professionals, one of which was Agritecture’s Founder and CEO, Henry Gordon-Smith. Gilles comments that “it was as if the stars aligned. I met Dickson, he got me into contact with Henry, and soon I was part of an AgTech workshop in Vegas. I was instantly overwhelmed and surprised by the exchange that I was having with Henry and this network of professionals. It got me into a global thinking process about the agronomy side, the tech side, the human resources side, the political side, the building codes, the real estate, and how everything - how all of this could be working together.” Soon after, Gilles travelled back to Paris, quit his job, and “started on a journey around the world to understand what existed” in this space.
Unlike Gilles, Co-Founder Nicholas Seguy, first encountered the concept of vertical farming while on a fishing trip in Russia in extremely deserted and natural surroundings. He was already in the midst of a career transition and was very interested in the Food Revolution, when he decided to attend an Agritecture Workshop in Minneapolis. While Gilles was set to test out his entrepreneurial side, Nichloas wanted to provide a turnkey solution for the industry. The two joined forces, and that’s how Jungle was born.
Defining The Goals
In regards to defining the goals of the business, Gilles says that “in the genesis of the project, we didn't want to have the biggest vertical farm, we wanted to enable a revolution. We started by spending three years doing our research and development. We have tested over 1000 plant and herb recipes.” In the end, they figured out the two elements that make them unique and they opened the first farm a couple of kms from Paris.
Firstly, scalability. Gilles says that they “don’t do small production units inside stores, we centralize production and activate the economy of scale. We speak to the heads of retails and establish nationwide contracts by reverse engineering our financial models.”
Secondly, being interdisciplinary. “We don’t just stick to the food industry. We’ve slowly entered the perfume industry and we also see a potential in pharmaceutics in the upcoming years.” Gilles shares how the perfume industry generally uses flowers grown in distant lands where pesticides are used. But, flowers have a short flourishing cycle, and so, they don’t reach perfume producers in time. The pain point here is also that “some flowers flourish once a year in remote places for 7-10 days, and extraction cycles last approximately between two to three months.” So, what perfumers need is good, natural ingredients, produced close enough to home.
Entering New Markets & Scaling Impact
In January 2019, a world-leader in the perfume industry decided to invest in Jungle, launching R&D programs in order to enable these rare flowers to be better extracted and used for special recipes. Today, Jungle is also entering the cosmetics industry, being truly interdisciplinary and helping consumers better understand vertical farming and its potential.
These two new pathways for the vertical farming industry prove the extent to which controlled environment agriculture is applicable and feasible. Not only will kick-starting their journeys in the perfume and cosmetics industry further spread awareness around vertical farming, but it has also allowed entrepreneurs like Jungle to “develop the ability to talk with these different industries, do the research to prove its applicability, and figure out the tech to support the claim.”
Alongside entering new markets, Jungle has been reconsidering their bandwidth for scaling their impact when it comes to people and the environment. The team has already signed on someone to better manage the hygiene, security, and environments, and by Q2 of this year, they will be bringing on a head of impact. “We now have a strong focus on reaching the best ESG goals as a company. It’s in our DNA to continuously strengthen our environmental and social purposes.”
Throughout these conversations with new industries, Jungle has been keeping a close eye on their energy consumption. Gilles shares that “the tech provider we work with uses local energy low voltage, so the LEDs end up consuming much less energy than the average in the market. Whilst we couldn’t integrate renewable energies into our first facility, it’s certainly in the plans for facility 2 and 3.” Jungle has also been participating in numerous tree-planting programs, looking for alternative ways to decarbonize both the industry and the planet.
“On the human side of the equation, we’re creating new jobs almost 80 kilometers from Paris. We’re building a training center in order to train better. And, we’re also signing new deals to integrate production facilities into existing organizations.”
Funding For The Future
Gilles comments that “fundraising is simply a means to develop our creativity and keep growing.” The team has three farms in the works; “we’ve selected retailers throughout Europe, and have been careful because the idea is not to work with every single retailer in France, it is to choose the top three retailers for every city. This helps us develop long-term agreements, and create farms that are best suited for the deal type and the people.”
In terms of the perfume, cosmetics, and eventually pharmaceuticals industries, Gilles says that the team wants to become an international reference point for the growth of these specific flowers and rare crops. “That’s why we need to keep growing as a team, throughout Europe, cross-industry, and more.”
Gillies’ final words for making all this happen? “Be realistic and humble. Appreciate the flavor in your mouth and never forget the reasons that motivate you to be here.”