In Ain, the start-up Falabella is making industrial parks flourish

In Ain, the start-up Falabella is making industrial parks flourish

The vast majority of cut flowers sold in France are imported. To relocate production, Falabella, a gardening and landscaping company in Ain, had the idea of ​​growing them on the industrial sites it maintains.

Secateurs in hand, Cédric Jaspard kneels on the lawn and delicately grasps the stems, one by one. This morning, her bin is full of pink carnations: “They’re not the most impressive, but it’s high season and they are as pretty as they are robust! » Like every Tuesday, the professional comes to pick his flowers while making sure to leave a few on the flowerbed, to brighten up the welcome of the Hayward company. This swimming pool manufacturer located in the Plaine de l’Ain industrial park, in Saint-Vulbas, was one of the first attracted by the proposal from Falabella, the company which employs Cédric. For two years, the start-up has maintained and developed the green spaces of Hayward, in exchange for which it can produce local and seasonal flowers on the site, which it resells through a short circuit.

The idea was born a few years ago. Mathilde Duperret, an agricultural engineer by training, started her career in a landscaping maintenance company. Always passionate about flowers, she gradually stopped buying bouquets, “disgusted” by the excesses of the market. In France, more than 80% of the cut flowers sold are grown on the other side of the world, often in Africa, and pass through the Netherlands before landing in our vases. “In addition to their carbon footprint, they look very similar and smell very little! », sums up the one who then begins to dream of growing her own.

Company gardens

But relocating the flower is not an easy task: land is rare and expensive, and cultivation is difficult to make profitable. Mathilde Duperret then thought of all these lawns and flower beds available on company sites: “I told myself that we could use them for our production and finance this activity through landscaping maintenance. » A “win-win” solution: the anti-stress properties of green spaces are undeniable for employee productivity and Mathilde Duperret can pool the location and equipment. To get started, she approached the Cheval group, a mission-driven company specializing in agricultural work, whose headquarters are in the region and where her partner works. This is how Falabella – named after the smallest breed of horse in the world – was born in 2022.

Today, the start-up has around ten employees and has won around twenty landscaping contracts for the 200 companies in the Ain industrial park, to which are added a few social landlords and communities. For the first year, 20,000 flowers were grown and picked on nine of these sites, “in return for a reduction on the maintenance bill, an aesthetic added value and an ecological gesture”. Once picked, they adorn restaurants in surrounding towns and local events. They are sold during pop-up markets and in the form of orders or subscriptions for individuals and companies, who can pamper their employees. For the Easter weekend, around thirty employees of Soverglass, a glass processing company, left with a bouquet of freshly picked daffodils and daffodils… right next door.

Produce all year round

Difficult, however, to work with florists. The use of the most natural methods possible – from grazing herbivorous animals (sheep or donkeys) to permaculture without greenhouses and without products – makes people very dependent on the weather. “Our volume is less homogeneous and regular, and our flowers are not necessarily adapted to the expectations of professionals who order from catalogs,” explains Cédric Jaspard. However, the company manages to produce flowers almost all year round, by diversifying the varieties and respecting the seasons, from tulips to dahlias, including gladioli and hydrangeas. “They have other advantages: as they have not traveled around the world, they last longer! “, explains Lise Cruz, a former florist who recently joined the team. Boosted by word of mouth, demand increases as ecological awareness awakens. Falabella could even add a new string to her bow: for the past month, she has also been growing around fifty varieties of aromatic herbs for the table of a starred chef, located just a few kilometers away.

Recipes for success

  • An undemanding culture Unlike a vegetable garden project, which requires more work and rich soil, growing flowers can be done almost anywhere, including on poor soils.
  • A short circuit Located in the heart of the Ain plain industrial park, which brings together 200 companies and 8,000 employees, Falabella benefits from a large clientele within a radius of just a few kilometers.
  • Financial support As a subsidiary of the Cheval group, the young start-up can cultivate its independence while benefiting from solid support services such as accounting management and communication.

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