Immerse yourself in Jungle’s ultra-connected vertical farm

Jungle decided to set up its vertical agricultural laboratory on a William Saurin site located in Château-Thierry in Hauts-de-France. An ideal start-up location, as it is located close to the A4 motorway and other main motorway axes, allowing you to quickly serve France with fresh and potted herbs.

From the beginning, the goal of the startup is “offer cheaper products than organic products and at almost the same price as conventional agriculture”says co-founder Gilles Dreyfus concerned with issues such as the environment and better consumption.

food and cosmetics

Founded in 2016, Jungle first settled in Portugal. A first PoC (Proof-of-Concept) was set up with Auchan. the vertical farm “it was visible at the front of the store and customers could see its operation” before buying herbs in the store. In 2019, the start-up partnered with Monoprix from France.

Afterwards, he moved to Château-Thierry with all his equipment… including the first vertical farm on display in Portugal. A first test was launched with three Monoprix in 2020 and further deals followed with Intermarché and Carrefour. To date, its biggest customer in the food sector is Grand Frais, as Jungle products are present in more than 500 stores.

The start-up offers 12 food species and 7 species for perfumery and cosmetics. These are not the same properties that are presented according to needs: for the kitchen you have to pay attention to flavor and vitamins, to the smell for perfume and to antioxidants for cosmetics. But agricultural production consists of “the harmony of three criteria which are the nutritional recipe, the climate and photosynthesis”sums up Gilles Dreyfus simply.

From germination to the growing room

The space occupied by the start-up consists of a hangar measuring 3,600 m² on the ground and 12 meters below ground. Inside, the space was divided into different zones: R&D laboratory, germination zone, silo cleaning, packaging or loading zone. The first area, located in an open space in the hangar, includes the silo cleaning stations, merchandise packaging and loading dock storage.

Production begins with the germination of a seed. “You have to put a substrate that depends on the plant and is a mixture of peat, coconut fiber and hemp”, explains Gilles Dreyfus without revealing all the secrets of his miraculous recipes. This first stage is somewhat automated thanks to a ‘drum’ with small holes in which the seeds are housed. Upstream programming allows you to inject the correct amount and density of seeds.

The seeds are placed in the holes in the drum.

When germination is complete, move to the germination chamber. A controlled space in which it is dark, humid and hot. “The ferries spend three to six days there, depending on the species”, slips Gilles Dreyfus, before entering the culture room. To access this new area, it is necessary to cross two air chambers that allow for positive pressure and guarantee a well-controlled environment.

everything is automated

“Everything is automated! Entry into this controlled environment is limited”, says Gilles Dreyfus. These culture chambers are composed of two robots, which resemble shelves, positioned facing each other. It is possible to load and unload these spaces with the growing trays, program the irrigation of the plants with pipes positioned in the four corners of the robot, take pictures to measure the growth of the plants and look for pathogens.

Each chamber is connected to a unit with a nutrient tray including water, micro and macronutrients, as well as an electrical conductivity probe to measure the amount of nutrients in the water. The environment is fully controlled, be it temperature, humidity, relative humidity (so that the plant will transpire), CO2, air circulation and wind simulation to strengthen the plants.

A Jungle grow room.

One of Jungle’s strong points is the collection and analysis of data, whether photos or the analysis of the collected water to find out what was consumed by the plants. “Once the water is injected, it is recovered and what has been consumed is measured, explains Gilles Dreyfus. The next watering recipe can be changed in just 15 minutes.” Another essential point: the start-up, which captures 100% of rainwater for its operation, guarantees that its crops consume 98% less water than traditional agriculture.

Between 15 and 20 tons produced per year

“For now, Jungle has six grow roomsexplains Gilles Dreyfus. At full capacity, the venue will accommodate 14 people. Each room is 5 meters by 6 meters and has 25 cultivation levels on each side, that is, 320m² of cultivation in all.” Between 15 and 20 tons are produced per year, depending on the variety.

In detail, Jungle guarantees a yield between 50 and 55 kg per m² per year, which corresponds to a yield 10 to 30 times greater than open field plantations. And production is guaranteed all year round. For example, the Jungle carries out 14 harvests of basil per year, while in the open field approximately three harvests are carried out.

“The further we go, the less expensive the farm is and the more efficient it is”, adds the co-founder. Technically, there is no zero limit to the harvests that can be achieved. The only question is profitability in terms of cycle times or the space required. The start-up is currently studying the cultivation of peppers, cucumbers and berries.

For marketing a service

Currently, 70% of its sales are from food and 30% from perfumes and cosmetics. “The margin between net and gross is greater in cosmetics”, stresses however Gilles Dreyfus. And this sector asks for solutions like Jungle’s. For some perfumes, such as lily-of-the-valley, it is difficult to have enough plants in their natural state. The other significant advantage presented by Jungle is “Ensuring natural supply.” An even more essential criterion with the increase in transport prices and supply difficulties.

Proof of its interest in cosmetics and perfumery, a major axis of its R&D is focused on this sector to increase the yield of a flower or accentuate its smell. Jungle has already closed a partnership with Firmenich, a Swiss company that develops perfume recipes. And this sectoral diversification is part of the evolution of the business model of the startup that wants, in the long term, to sell its vertical farm, and not just its production. These farms could be sold to cosmetics and perfume manufacturers or to farmers.

Gilles Dreyfus explains that he wants to explore the concept of FaaS for Ferm-as-a-Service, which consists of marketing the vertical farm and a whole set of maintenance services, supply of seeds and substrates and maintenance. The first two contracts are in progress with cosmetics and perfumery players. The start-up, which is expected to reach a turnover of 1.2 million euros in 2022, expects FaaS activity to be an important part of its income in 2025.

To continue its development, Jungle, which held a Series A fundraiser led by Demeter and Founders Future in February 2021, is currently seeking further financial support. It expects to close a new round at the beginning of the year.

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