Agricool, a French agri-tech start-up growing fresh produce in a controlled indoor environment, is looking for a buyer after calling in receivers.

Guillaume Fourdinier, the founder and CEO of Paris-based Agricool, filed documents in January with the Commercial Court of Bobigny, which has frozen the company’s debt and opened a six-month observation period to identify a buyer by 31 July.

Fourdinier set up the business in 2015, cultivating fresh herbs, leafy greens and strawberries in recycled shipping containers known in the vertical-farming industry as cooltainers. He was eager to cut the time to market and provide fresher and pesticide-free produce to consumers in local proximity to his growing sites in the Paris suburbs of La Courneuve and Courbevoie.

Agricool’s systems use 90% less water and nutrients than conventional farming techniques, and in another environmental advantage, use fully renewable energy sources.

French giant Danone has invested in the business, taking part in a US$28m investment round in 2020 via its venture capital arm, Danone Manifesto Ventures.

Speaking to Just Food in 2020, Fourdinier said Agricool had received EUR30m (US$32.9m today) in total financing as he emphasised the capital-intensive nature of controlled indoor farming.

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However, the court documents provided by Fourdinier to this publication pointed to that aspect in the receivership process.

“The declaration of cessation of payments was motivated by an insufficient turnover to finance the high structural costs characteristic of start-ups, mainly linked to the costs generated by investments in R&D and the lack of volumes necessary to achieve an operating balance.”

The court also noted Agricool was the subject of a cyberattack in 2020, resulting in “operational and financial consequences”. And “the failure of negotiations aimed at carrying out the fourth round of fundraising, which is essential to continue financing development”.

It also said Agricool has EUR4.1m in assets but total liabilities of EUR6.3m, with the court adding the company employs 64 staff.

Fourdinier told Just Food in 2020: “It’s a lot of effort and money and investment to make it profitable. We are basically inventing a new industry. This is something that will change the next 100 years of agriculture but it will take time for sure.”

See Just Food’s analysis here: Indoor farming and the prospects for profitability