Interview with Vincent Krause, co-founder of the company, FEVE, who shares with us his passion for agroecology.
How did you come up with the idea to make FEVE?
It all starts with an environmental “slap” I suffered a few years back. I had a remote assistance business for the elderly, which I sold to a mutual insurance company. I wanted to resume an activity that would have a positive impact on the environment. I became interested in many fields and, very soon, I focused on agriculture. To me, this is at the heart of the change we must make. Indeed, it affects both carbon, biodiversity and land management issues.
It is also related to what we eat on a daily basis and hence it is also related to our health. I realized that there are many steps to be taken and agro-ecological change is not happening fast enough. I met a lot of people and educated myself. That’s how I met my colleagues and decided to dedicate myself to this field. Together, we tried to think of how to accelerate this agro-ecological transformation.
when was it
I met my partners in 2020. Then we asked ourselves the question how to proceed further. We found that half of the farmers in France are retiring. Rather than trying to change the practices of people in place, we are more interested in the people who will replace them. Thus we decided to promote more environmentally sound establishments.
We see that two-thirds of the establishments today are outside the family structure. These are people who do not inherit land from their parents, contrary to what one might think. However, for these people, access to land is one of the main barriers to settlement. That is why we have decided to create a structure that aims to facilitate access to land for those who want to settle on agroecological practices. The company was formed in September-October 2020.
What were the first major steps of the company?
The first necessary step was the financing of the establishment of the first farm which took place during the summer of 2021. Then, the second step was to create a solidarity real estate during this same summer. It should be noted that the first two projects funded were not funded by the latter. This creation allowed us to continually raise funds and create a structure to finance subsequent projects. These are two great “milestones” for me. The third step was to raise five million euros during the year 2022. And the next big step, which is in progress, is that we are in the process of bringing in individuals as well as institutional investors to capitalize on the property company to accelerate. financing of projects.
Has the business model remained the same from the beginning?
The business model is the creation of a property company that buys farms to provide them with the option to buy, in the form of rentals. We pay every time we create a form. At the end we are paid a commission for all the work done upstream.
Why did you change the financing method?
At first, we weren’t sure how we were going to do it. We have created GFAs which are equivalent to SCI. In the beginning, we were looking for our role models. We were thinking about how we were going to do it. That is why the first projects were funded by ad hoc structures. This proved to be a good idea to start with as it allowed us to test in the field, but it was not valid for large scale deployment. These first two projects enabled us to verify that we were capable of supporting projects, setting them up and finding investors. Keeping good results in mind, we have created a legal framework which makes it possible to achieve this in a comprehensive and easy manner.
What has been the biggest difficulty you have faced since inception and how did you overcome it?
Nothing is easy in entrepreneurship. But in the agricultural world it is even more complicated. The main reason is that farmers find it difficult to make fair payments. As you create a service for them, you need to think about how it will be financed as they may not always have the ability to pay. The most difficult thing was managing to talk to everyone in the agriculture world. Because some people are supporters of traditional farming, some people are supporters of organic farming and some people talk about regenerative culture.
We strive to have discussions with everyone because we are convinced that if we want to be successful in setting up as many people as possible, we need to be able to be heard by everyone and in front of all players in the ecosystem You should make your identity. Failing to do so, there is always the risk of being perceived as outsiders and perceived as pedagogues. This is not exactly what we strive to do but it often requires time and multiple appointments. Now, we are getting successful and we are quite satisfied as all the actors in the agriculture ecosystem have welcomed us very well.
You just raised 1.7 million. What is the plan ?
We have an activity in which we need to do a lot of work to finance projects. As I mentioned in the business model, we get paid when the project is funded. So we have a very significant working capital requirement. Fund-raising was therefore to finance the recruitment to be able to develop the activity almost everywhere in France and the income was little.
We are currently present from the west of Normandy to Occitanie and aim, over the next eighteen months, to deploy the activity across France. The second reason is that we have developed a digital platform parallel to the real estate company, aimed at establishing project leaders and facilitating access to tools, content and services. It’s called La Grange and this fundraiser also aims to deploy it more widely.
What are your short-medium-long term goals?
Our objective remains to be considered the main aid for agricultural establishment. We want to make sure that anyone looking to settle down should consider FEVE for both the financing side and La Grange through the property company. We want to be considered as one of the leading players in medium term agriculture establishment. In the short term, the aim this year is to accelerate collections as well as financing between ten to fifteen projects with the property company. We raise money from individuals and we want to raise a little over ten million euros. We also expect to double next year.
I believe you have done several fundraisers?
It is constantly on the ground. 1.7 million is slightly different. They actually grew up in the company that is the manager of the property. The objective is not necessarily to outgrow these structures. On the other hand, on the ground we raise money, as I have repeatedly said. Last year we exceeded five million. There, we’re at about eight and the aim is to end the year at about fifteen. This is one of the main objectives of this year from today, on which we have to move forward, that is, to speed up the collection. Indeed, we have more and more interesting projects for funding.
Ultimately, the hardest part is the project or the funding?
It’s a bit complicated. If you had asked me the question six months ago, I would have told you that these were projects. Right now, it’s more money, because we’ve done a lot of work on identifying projects and have made a lot of progress in setting them up. So at the moment we have many projects. Later on, I would say that it is a bit of both as you have to move coherently on both the subjects in parallel. I believe the biggest added value we have is on the project part: identifying projects and setting up projects, which is the most complex in my opinion. However, in the short term, we need more money because we have under-worked an aspect that we didn’t need immediately.
What surprised me the most from the start?
Variety of projects proposed before us. Today, there are many people who want to settle in the agriculture world with very different projects. That’s pretty amazing! In fact, many of them are thinking about projects that are often niche projects, and this exponential diversity has nothing to do with what we’ve been able to experience over the past thirty years. The projects conform slightly less to already known patterns. And it’s interesting because it creates diversity and therefore a little bit stronger resilience in the field. This diversity makes it possible to better resist the uncertainties we face, whether we are talking about climatic or market uncertainties.
What will happen in the next steps?
Today we are fifteen people in the team. There is ambition in terms of recruitment. The aim is to have between fifteen and twenty people. It will depend on how we develop the business. The second objective is to develop the Grange and its activities. This will involve recruiting, and in order to develop everywhere in France, we need to persuade project managers to join us, in different locations, in different sectors. We need local presence to make these projects for property company.
“This diversity allows us to better resist the uncertainties we face, whether we are talking about climate or market uncertainties. ,
3 Tips from Vincent Krause
- Get involved in an activity you are passionate about.
- Surround yourself well, starting with your colleagues.
- Be yourself and uphold your values.