The businessman Xavier Niel and Audrey Bourolleau, former advisor to Emmanuel Macron, have created an agricultural campus of 600 hectares at 1h30 from the center of Paris. Pilot farm, educational center and training, the campus is multifaceted.
“The largest agricultural campus in the world, at the gates of Paris”. It is with these words that Hectar is presented, a campus run by the French billionaire Xavier Niel and Audrey Bourolleau, former advisor to Emmanuel Macron, and previously general delegate of Vin et Socité, a lobby for the wine industry.
Located on more than 600 hectares in the regional natural park of the Haute Vallée de Chevreuse, the campus will host its first training course in September to support the creation of agricultural businesses. This first session will be made up of around thirty handpicked candidates, the administration having been inundated with requests, Hectar told BFM Business.
The estate with its 18th century castle was bought in 2019 at 51% by Audrey Bourolleau and at 49% by the personal holding company of Xavier Niel, founder and main shareholder of Iliad (Free), for a total amount of 18.4 millions of euros.
Incubator, educational center, pilot farm and training … Hectar aims to be multifaceted. As at School 42, also created by businessman Xavier Niel, free training is provided there for the “agricultural entrepreneurs of tomorrow”.
“We are facing a very significant generation challenge. In France, 160,000 farms are to be taken over within three years. The next generation must be trained,” said Audrey Bourolleau, quoted by Maddyness.
Training to become an agricultural business manager or agricultural employee, support to create an agricultural business, several formulas exist.
In addition, a training program on artificial intelligence, called Agritech IA, will welcome around thirty students from School 42 each year. The goal: “to develop technical skills within the framework of artificial intelligence projects related to context and needs of the agricultural sector “, details a joint press release.
A farm and an educational center
But Hectar is more than a training center. The campus hosts, for example, a pilot farm in organic transition and regenerative agriculture on 250 hectares. Before the takeover of the estate by Xavier Niel and Audrey Bourolleau, cereals were cultivated in intensive agriculture. Culture is now transitioning to organic.
In addition to cereals, a dairy farm has been relocated, after having disappeared in the 1980s. Sixty Norman cows have lived in the Hectar meadows for several months.
The project called “Laiterie des Godets” aims to improve working conditions and encourage vocations, particularly among the younger generations. The goal is to produce 200,000 liters of organic milk on the farm by March 2022, transformed into cheese and yoghurt.
The campus also has an educational center which will be able to accommodate college students from priority education network establishments (REP and REP +) for their third year internship. Primary school students will also be able to come and visit the house with their teachers as part of “fork to plate” workshops. It should be ready in the fall.
Other developments are to come. From January, the campus will host, for example, a start-up accelerator, in partnership with HEC. A call for projects will be sent out at the end of September.