This month the brainchild of French student, Martin Savouré, became a reality. Basile is a revolutionary self-maintaining indoor garden created by the 'Culteev' start-up and made possible by an extraordinary initiative at Université Paris-Saclay.
Savouré caught the green fingered bug unintentionally, “The Basile project came to me during a trip to the countryside. I was on a balcony, looking at some aromatic plants that were growing in a window box, and I said to myself that I would really like one of them myself!” This was wishful thinking, because, at the time, he was living a young, impulsive city life. “The idea began because I wanted a window box, but I lived in the city and travelled too much, any plants would have just died,” says Martin Savouré. He thought further about this, and asked himself what it was exactly that was stopping him from having some window boxes in the city.
This green dream could have ended there, except for the fact that Martin Savouré is eternally curious - the millennial mind is a career creationist. He combined his knowledge of horticulture and engineering at The Catholic Institute of Engineering (ICAM) in Nantes and his need for a challenging project idea for his specialised Master's Degree course at Centrale-ESSEC Entrepreneurs. So, the academic called on one of his old classmates from ICAM, Alexandre Aumand, with whom he decided to partner and form Culteev and set about creating an indoor garden unlike any other. Basile manages the artificial sunlight and water needed for its produce. It plugs into the mains electricity – only needing seeds planting and a water reservoir filling every three weeks and allows city lovers to have a little 'green' corner in their home.
Whilst the concept aimed to bring nature and life to the city, money doesn’t grow on trees, seizing on his student status the pair took the opportunity to present the project at different student competitions. At Saclay, they won the Peips prize, and with it, 12,000 Euros. They then took the Pépite prize, and a further 10,000 Euros and began designing prototypes of the product. While the technology existed in laboratories, the creation of an autonomous indoor garden allowed the tech to become available to the public.
Since its inception, Culteev have taken the Grand Jury Prize at the Paris Saclay Invests competition, “That gave us exposure, and above all, it allowed us to dip our toes into the world of fundraising.” The two partners are currently looking for approximately 400,000 Euros in order to go into production. “It's the main difficulty for a business like ours that is proposing an object that needs to be manufactured”. This is one to watch.