The start-up has just inaugurated its first vegetable farm near Pointe-Noire. A project carried out for the benefit of market gardeners in Djeno, a coastal village near the Total oil terminal to which the French oil group has provided support and which could very quickly be duplicated.
JTAgro is not starting from scratch. On February 9, the Improved Tropical Gardens certainly inaugurated their first market garden operation on the continent south of Pointe-Noire, less than two years after the creation of the company. But on this project, the legally French start-up has drawn on nearly two decades of experience accumulated by the designer of agricultural solutions JTS Concept (Tropical gardens and seeds).
Funded by the former banker Pierre Moussa, first Africa director of the World Bank, JTS Concept, now liquidated, has developed, in partnership with the National Institute of Agronomic Research (INRA), a cultivation methodology that would be 4 to 6 times more productive than those usually deployed in tropical areas.
During the 2000s, she brought her expertise to the High Commission for Refugees and created more than 3,000 hut gardens of around 15 square meters each. It is to offer commercial outlets for this know-how that Laurent Colas and Yoann Michenet, respectively former CEO and Technical Director of JTS, and Pierre Alexandre Moussa (distant relative of Pierre Moussa) co-founded JTAgro.
600 tonnes sold to Sodexo, Total and local hoteliers.
In Djeno, located 15 kilometers from the Congolese economic capital, the farm designed by JTAgro occupies 15 hectares operated in sustainable agriculture (limited use of inputs). Its production estimated at 600 tonnes this year (eggplants, cabbage, zucchini, carrots, melons, watermelons, peppers, salads, tomatoes), of which the first harvest has started, will be sold at 40% to the company Sodexo for the supply. of Total’s offshore platforms. The remainder will be bought by the supply ship Daron Shipchandler, among others, hoteliers and restaurateurs in the area are also interested.
Supported by the French oil company which, as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy, made the land available and awarded a subsidy of 150,000 euros, the start-up mobilized fourteen market gardeners united in association. The latter now owns 51% of Primeurs de Djeno (SPD).
JTAgro is also a 23.5% shareholder in the project. Despite the support of Total and Sodexo, Pierre Alexandre Moussa admits to having struggled to complete the financing of the project valued at 611,000 euros.
“We did not find any seed funds and it was finally thanks to the support of the Aries investment company that we obtained a loan from the International Commercial Bank (BCI, local subsidiary of BPCE) that the Agency French development has guaranteed in part ”, he explains.
In its first year of operation, the platform is expected to achieve a turnover of 1 million euros and 1.36 million euros in the second year. Pierre Alexandre Moussa and Laurent Colas are already planning to double the cultivated area in Pointe Noire by diversifying the outlets for the platform and are studying the possibility of replicating the initiative in Brazzaville where demand for fresh produce is also high.
10 other vegetable farms in the pipeline
Before launching in the Republic of Congo, JTAgro had already carried out a pilot vegetable farm project in Mauritius in partnership with the Lagesse family, owners of the Mon Loisir group (GML). The start-up then invested 260,000 euros raised from individuals, around 60% of the total cost of operation (420,000 euros). Started on five hectares in 2016, the farm has been labeled organic farming – an incentive for organic agricultural production introduced by the government of Mauritius in 2016. And it is expected to expand to seven hectares this year. The production is purchased by the distributor Proxifresh, specializing in the import, export and distribution of fresh fruit and vegetables in Mauritius, of which the Lagesse family is a shareholder.
A dozen other market gardening platforms are to date in JTAgro’s plans, particularly in Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea where the authorities also wish to limit imports of fresh vegetables. “In Malabo, the authorities are ready to invest, but they also want us to be shareholders”, explains Pierre Alexandre Moussa. After the inauguration of his first farm, 2017 could also be the year of a first fundraiser.