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Italy's Agricooltor looks to the future:

"A business model for the delivery of a fresh produce with the roots intact to end consumers"

Climate change, global warming, and water scarcity are forcing us to rethink the technological agenda. Aeroponic agriculture is an innovative growing technique that promises great results in preserving resources and environmental sustainability.

Founded in 2018 on the idea of Marco Bartolomeo Divià, Alessandro Boniforte, and Stefano Ferrero, Agricooltur® is an Italian company that has designed and patented an efficient and innovative aeroponic farming system that allows plants to grow from the soil in a controlled environment, with significant water savings compared to traditional techniques and without using pesticides.

Alessandro Boniforte, Marco Bartolomeo Divià and Stefano Ferrero

"We are working to consolidate our presence throughout the country. The first project, in chronological order, will be in Lazio, where we plan to open an Agricooltur greenhouse in Rome by June 2024, in addition to the activities already carried out in northern Italy - Lombardy, Piedmont, and Liguria," say the three founders. "The company's development plan also includes further international expansion. We are working with Frédéric Thil, former CEO of Ferrero and a very experienced professional in the sector. Together, we are designing the foreign development strategy and the roll-out plan."

The European markets, especially France and Spain, are of great interest to the company, and the plan is to have a channel in place by 2025.

Three patents
The system developed by Agricooltur is based on three patents (Aerosmart, Aeromatic, and Hortus) that allow growing vegetables, microgreens, and herbs using a system of spraying the roots of the plants, with extraordinary results in speed, quantity, and above all quality.

The company's cultivation systems can be used both indoors, with adaptation to existing structures, and outdoors. 'The Plant' (a larger greenhouse) and 'Hortus' (an end-of-life container transformed by Agricooltur engineers into a high-tech greenhouse) are the two modules equipped for outdoor cultivation.

The advantages
According to Divià, Boniforte, and Ferrero, "the plants, suspended above the ground, receive water and nutrients from their roots in a completely controlled environment, which almost completely reduces the spread of pests and diseases typical of ground cultivation, without having to use insecticides or pesticides that are potentially harmful to human, plant and environmental health."

"Vegetables, microgreens, and herbs grown with our aeroponic method achieve water savings of up to 98 percent and use less than 10 percent of fertilizers compared to traditional agriculture. We don't add chemicals to the water table and limit soil consumption. Agricooltur's plants are designed and placed where there is demand. This reduces waste and limits the movement of goods by road, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere."

Large-scale retail channel: experience with the Carrefour chain
With Carrefour, the company has already made its entry into the large-scale retail channel. "This is a relatively recent collaboration that has produced excellent results from the outset," say Divià, Boniforte, and Ferrero. "From a brand perspective, there has been tremendous enthusiasm for our product, and this enthusiasm has been maximized at our retail locations. There is no doubt that there are the premises for the consolidation of a very fruitful collaboration, with a significant increase in the number of stores in which we will be present. We already have a number of projects in the pipeline.

Aeroponic farming enters the world of franchising
As a result of a €5 million investment round in 2023, Agricooltur has strengthened both its organization and its widespread market presence and expects to exceed €11 million in sales on the Italian and European markets in 2024. What has attracted franchisees to Agricooltur's franchise model is its scalability, its ability to rationalize the use of resources, to maximize sustainability, and to deliver increasingly controlled and fresher products to the end consumer.

After years of experimentation and success, the company is now launching its innovative franchise model, which includes a turnkey package for the production and marketing of its products. The company has already entered the large retail channel, the horeca sector with restaurateurs and star chefs, corporate canteens (Dussaman for Eni), and the real estate sector. It starts with the production facility and management training. Agricooltur also provides technical and agronomic support, raw materials (pre-seeded pods), packaging and preservation systems, and a marketing kit.

Divià with 'Hortus,' the end-of-life container transformed into a high-tech greenhouse, at Cibus Connecting Italy 2023

"Our business model and market positioning are based on delivering a fresh-rooted product to the final consumer. To do this, it is essential to be present everywhere, and we have identified franchising as the right tool to keep our promise while expanding across the country," conclude Divià, Boniforte, and Ferrero.

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