CORDIS - EU research results

Jellyfish Barge - A floating greenhouse

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - JFB (Jellyfish Barge - A floating greenhouse)

Reporting period: 2015-06-01 to 2015-11-30

Urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA) can contribute to enhancing urban food security and healthy nutrition in the cities. It brings a multitude of benefits to communities: improved access to healthy food, workforce training and job development, and allows urban revitalization of inactive sites and social innovation. At the moment UPA is located in vacant lots, rooftops gardens, indoor farming facilities and city parks; as a downside, these locations have many limitations: empty plots are confined in locations with limited availability, rooftops offer a very limited public access, and indoor farming can be so energetically intense to have a huge environmental impacts in terms of carbon footprint.
In this context, Jellyfish Barge (JFB) offers a turn-key sustainable solution for UPA that generates its own water and energy, using only solar power. JFB represents an innovative solution, able to purify salty or brackish water, easy to assemble, and partially made with recycled elements. The installation of Jellyfish Barge modules helps revitalize cities, providing fresh food to urban communities. Our objective is to enter in the urban farming sector. To achieve this, in the premises of this project, we aimed at better identify and estimate a value for our strengths, to understand barriers to the market and weakness of our business strategy, to make clear how the selected markets works and to build strategic alliances and strong relationship with operators already active in the market, both in the production and the commercial sector.
To achieve our goals, during the last 6 months, we focused on many aspects of our business. An initial change was done at the businness strategy : in our project proposal we defined two different lines of products : (i) line A, more expensive and partially custom made, designed for urban farming ; (ii) and line B, cheaper, industrialized and specifically designed as intensive floating farming units, to adress the issue of food security in specific areas such as the Arabic Peninsula. However, after a preliminary study, we abandoned this second line to focus entirely on the urban farming activity. In fact it represents a large and promising market, that was well matching with the values offered by JFB, and decided to define an industrialization plan for a higher-quality high-efficiency sustainable cultivation module: We chose not to measure against food security because to really influence this issue huge scale installations are needed. For this kind of installations the main problems are logistics and costs.
We chose to focus on a market niche, which is the production of fresh vegetables in the urban environment of post-industrial cities. At the current stage of development of the product post-industrial cities is a market more easily accessible for us, because: (i) they have easy access to technology and knowledge to maintain and manage JFB; (ii) there is more and more interest and culture about the benefit of urban agriculture ; (iii) there is no need of huge scale installations, but of small-medium size solutions.
To enter in such market, it is very important to understand the UPA dynamics and the main issue to deal with is the integration of our solution within the built environment, and the proposition of different benefits to a vast amount of players, able to produce both social and economic impact.
The small size of Jellyfish Barge, the materials it uses and its aesthetic quality are all factors that are beneficial to promote our product in the urban context.
During these six months of project activities we joined the accelerator programme of the USA Pavillon at Expo 2015. Being the USA leader in the urban faming market, we measured our value in this context thanks to a tailored coaching and comparing our product with other potential competitors. We also partecipated to an Acceleration Program at I3P incubator of Polytechnic of Turin that allowed us to identify and build alliances with strategic partners and we worked with the University of Toronto Global Executive MBA, joining an international expertise team, to perform an in deep study of some aspects of our business model.
Furthermore, we were able to promote and test the impact of our installations in an urban context, and we built did a second improved pilot installation in the Darsena of Milan during Expo 2015. Our installation attracted over 10.000 visitors during its 2 months of opening and posed us on privileged visibility position. This, together with the several participation to internationale events around Expo, gave us a lot of visibility and helped us to built a profitable network on contacts that are now very useful for the further implementation of our businness.
At present, UPA provides employment and income to about 800 million people and roughly 20 percent of the world’s food. According to FAO, this figure is likely to increase, as urban population grows quickly. JFB can be a driver of positive social and economic change, as it is an innovative infrastructure, combining an urban agriculture facility with a vital public space. JFB highly integrates in the urban life, producing values and spreading them to a vast amount of players such as citizens (local and healthy food), farming entrepreneurs (high crop production), the municipality (social innovation) and real estate developers (increase in property value). For this reason it can become a profitable business for many actors therefore generating substantial incomes.

In conclusion the overall outcome of the project has been an in depth analysis of our business, that lead us to some substantial change in our strategy and critical decisions. We focused on the market analysis, intellectual property, and partner relations. We also participated to many international events and activities that increased our network of potential partners that we are now involving in the industrialisation phase. The business segment analysed was very profitable, and with a reasonable market share (of about 4% the fifth year) we can expect an interesting turnover (5 milions after 3 years and 18 milions after 5 years, with and EBITDA of 28% for the fifth year).

This will also have a strong impact on occupational opportunities, that are expected to increase up to 14 people for the fifth year. The estimated venture capital is 1.300.000 euros, diluted in tre rounds for the first three years. These will cover: round 1 - industrialisation; round 2 - human resources and marketing plant; round three: consolidation of the marketing plan and production.
Jellyfish Barge pilot installation on the New Darsena of Milan during EXPO 2015