Close your eyes. Get comfortable. Think back to the wonderful strawberries and tomatoes of your childhood. The freshness, their smell, and above all their incredible taste. They were a real treat…And now, think of the strawberries and tomatoes that you’ll eat tonight after a quick run to the supermarket. Not exactly the same. So…how did we get here?
In France, over 26 m2 of farmland disappears every second. Why? The planet has 5 billion more people now than it did in 1950, and we’ll have another 2 billion by 2050. Today, 53% of that population lives in cities, and by 2050 it will be 70%. Cities are continuing to eat up more and more space. So we’re having to feed more and more people with less and less traditional farmland. The result so far is that we ship our fruits and vegetables into the city, from ever-further distances, turning each of them into little backpackers.
On average, they travel 1500 km to get from the field to your plate. It’s too far. They’re harvested prior to maturity, and they’re grown to be transported, not to be appreciated. Luckily, there are local producers who put quality above all else. But they’re just a tiny drop in the huge ocean — in France in 2015, they were only 6.5% of agricultural operations. Not great. So what’s our goal? To multiply that number, in a serious way. How? By innovating, and bringing taste and freshness back to our food. It’s Agricool’s entire mission:
“Build a sustainable food system by growing local, tasty and pesticide-free fruits and vegetables for everyone.”
SO WHERE DID THE TASTE GO?
It’s striking, really. The best fruits and vegetables have deserted our supermarket shelves. Why? Those that are there have gone through combat before ever reaching our plates, and that means they follow only one rule: the law of the jungle. Those that are fragile and focused on producing unparalleled taste and a medley of vitamins never make it. They’re replaced by the strongest, those who dedicated 100% of their energy to becoming indestructible. It’s James Bond mode, fruit and vegetable version.
And so nutritional quality tumbles at light speed. We need to eat 3 apples or oranges today to get the nutrients found in one in 1950. We might as well be eating empty husks.
It is time to give ourselves the means to again demand quality in our fruits and vegetables. No matter if the best varieties are the most fragile. We want taste and vitamins, no excuses. But for that, we have to review our production system.
LET’S GROW RIGHT DOWN THE STREET
In France, more than 200 farms disappear every year due to urbanization. So let’s make new ones. 1.3 billion tons of food is lost every year to a complicated logistical process. So let’s produce in the cities. How? We just need to use surfaces that are currently sitting empty. Urban areas aren’t lacking in these, so let’s optimize that space. We’ve created a paradise for fruits and vegetables, where 35 m2 can produce the same amount of food as 4000 m2 of traditional farmland. Impossible, you say? Not at all. We’ve recycled shipping containers to create the ideal conditions for plants. The best lighting + the best temperature + the best irrigation + the best air quality = strawberries that are plump and tasty. The best. And that brings us to…
THE PESTICIDE QUESTION
Let’s increase yield — but at what cost? Many have turned to pesticides to achieve this goal. There are fast results and it’s cheap. But today we see that there are serious consequences. More than 90% of the strawberries eaten in France contain pesticide residues. It’s alarming — for our health and for our planet.
So what can we do? Construct a protected ecosystem. It’s the ideal solution for controlling the entire growing environment. Fruits and vegetables are kept away from all harm, and the result is that we no longer need pesticides. Sounds ok so far, right? And that brings us to the next question…
AGRICULTURE’S IMPACT ON THE PLANET
Today, agriculture accounts for 25% of the world’s carbon footprint. It also is responsible for 70% of our water consumption. Even worse, intense growing practices contribute to ever poorer soil quality, and we’re losing 12 million hectares of soil each year. Being able to responsibly produce more is a serious issue.
So what’s our alternative? By cultivating locally, we eliminate long transportation networks and reduce carbon usage. By growing without soil, we give the earth a chance to rest. By creating a closed environment, we limit our use of resources. For example, our Cooltainers are engineered to use 90% less water and nutrients and to operate on 100% renewable energy. And that brings us to our last point.
THE BEST FRUITS AND VEGETABLES FOR EVERYONE
Today, accessing healthy food is not a given. Either it’s good, healthy and expensive, or it’s affordable without any taste and with dangerous health implications.
We need to recreate our lost links to our food. We need to multiply the amount of quality fruits and vegetables available. The number of farmers has been divided in half in the past 20 years. We need to breathe new life into farming as a profession, to create more and more farmers.
With Agricool, we want to help the Cooltivators of tomorrow emerge. No longer do you need particular skills or knowledge — a passion for fruits and vegetables is enough to get started. And then? There will be a decent revenue and the freedom of working on one’s own.
What’s our goal? To develop a community of Cooltivators across all the cities of the world. The costs for producing each Cooltainer will diminish as we make more and more of them. As a result, fruits and vegetables will also become more and more affordable.
Tomorrow, the fruits and vegetables on our plates won’t feel any shame compared to those that we knew in our childhoods. They’ll be exceptional. And even better, they’ll be available to everyone, anywhere, all the time. Open your eyes, smile — the future of food is here, right in front of you.