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Fresh local strawberries in winter? No issue in Paris

Capital start-up sells fresh, locally-grown strawberries all year round

Fresh, locally-grown strawberries can be eaten all year round in Paris – after two farmers’ sons found a way to beat the seasons.

Gonzague Gru and Guillaume Fourdinier came up with the idea of setting up their container farms after finding it hard to find good fruit and vegetables year round in Paris. They now employ 80 people to help with the production.

Their start-up, Agricool, claims its strawberries contain 20% more sugar and 30% more vitamins than supermarket ones, and sells them for €4.50 (for 250g) in some shops in Paris, notably in Monoprix.

No pesticides are used and an ecosystem with insects is even created so that the fruit is as healthy as possible.

Agricool’s communication manager Diane Fastrez said: “We have recreated in the container the equivalent of the ideal strawberry season. And using no pesticides was the basis of our project. We want to produce good and healthy fruit and vegetables harvested at maturity in the city.”

The production follows a three-month cycle - with 1.5 months of growing and 1.5 month of cropping. The company has set up its systems so that strawberries can be available all year round.

The strawberries grow vertically with LED lights replacing the sun, and are watered by a misting system.

The company chose to start with strawberries, as 130,000 tonnes of strawberries are consumed every year in France.

But they are now considering branching out to produce other fruit and vegetables, such as tomatoes, and aromatic herbs that are consumed daily, in Paris and other cities in the world.

They recently installed a first strawberry container in Dubai.

The containers are not only helping to reduce pollution but also allow to produce greater quantities as one container of 30m² gives 7 tonnes of strawberries a year, 120 times more than in a field.

This unusual way of production has also made consumers closer to the producers, as people often come to visit the containers in La Courneuve, in Seine-Saint-Denis.

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