In November 2014, Florian Breton, 32, the grandson of a wine-maker in the Pyrénées Orientales and a former audiovisual professional, launched Miimosa –the first crowdfunding website for food and agriculture. When small French farmers have great ideas but trouble getting a bank loan, they can count on Miimosa to help them. The result is 20,000 users and some 202 funded initiatives, including an organic bee farm in Brittany, a spirulina (very high-protein seaweed) farm in the Gers, a biodynamic orchard with “sheep lawn mowers” in Alsace, a food lab for a cooperative vegetable and fish cannery in Morbihan and a microbrewery in the Upper Savoy. In total, more than €1 million in investments.
Why did you create Miimosa?
Over and above my interest in the sector, the project was the fruit of three observations. Firstly, the increasing fragility of family farms, which find themselves in debt and driven into consortia with other farms because of the Common Agricultural Policy. Secondly, there is a growing collective consciousness, with people becoming more and more interested in locally-sourced farm-fresh and other food products. Finally, French agriculture receives almost no money from crowdfunding. Before Miimosa, 70% of crowdfunding projects related to culture and 0.6% to agriculture.
What types of projects do you finance mainly?
32% of the projects we support relate to animal husbandry, which says a lot about the sector’s fragility. Next come alcoholic beverages (craft breweries, distilleries, wine, etc.) and, lastly, bee-keeping and projects related to permaculture and agroforestry. Crowdfunding offers extraordinary benefits to consumers: school field trips, a week at a farm – and the list goes on. This is very useful to generational renewal and, as an added bonus, helps get young people interested in the farming business.
What are the innovation issues facing family farming?
Many farmers today feel the need to diversify their businesses. They come to us not only for financing, but also because they want to communicate with consumers and potential stakeholders in their projects. Their diversification may involve recreational activities, accommodation at the farm, and so on. For example, we are currently supporting a milk producer in Normandy who became an ice-cream maker in 2009 and now wants to create his own farm-fresh “Ice Truck.” He showed a lot of foresight in launching this business, looking ahead to the end of milk quotas, and is now taking in €250,000-300,000 each year in sales. He is one of the top ice-cream makers in France. His Citroën truck cost a total of €25,000. He could only come up with €5,000 on his own, so he launched a crowdfunding campaign for the remaining €20,000.
Can you describe some of the most innovative projects you have supported?
A group of six students launched a start-up called Tract’Innov, which installs trackers on tractors to improve their safety. Another project was funded in the Gers by 164 contributors to the tune of €11,430: a lavender grower acquired a still that runs on renewable energy to distill his lavender and produce essential oils.
And so, from truck farming to bee-keeping, and from horticulture to agricultural product processing, many young entrepreneurs see Miimosa as a way to find their first customers and make a name for themselves with consumers.