Hectar, Xavier Niel’s largest agricultural campus in the world opens its doors

Hectar will welcome its first promotion in September. This new kind of agricultural school founded by Xavier Niel and Audrey Bourolleau will also launch its own startup accelerator at the gates of Paris.

After coders and startups via 42 and Station F, the founder of Free will grow farmers. ”On more than 600 hectares, HECTAR is made up of a training campus, a startup and innovation accelerator, a pilot farm in regenerative agriculture, coworking spaces, seminars and awareness raising for youth”, such as the presentation made on its own website of the agricultural school financed by Xavier Niel, already in the starting blocks only 6 months after the announcement of its creation.

Located 50 minutes from the capital in Yvelines in the area of ​​La Boissière bought two years ago for nearly 18.4 million euros, “The largest agricultural campus in the world” will host its first class in September to support the creation of businesses in the field of agriculture. Like school 42, training is free and open to everyone.

It must be said that the challenges to be met are significant in view of the current figures. No less than 160,000 farms will have to be taken over within 3 years. 70,000 agricultural jobs are to be filled each year. And by 2050, it will be necessary to achieve carbon neutrality. Another major mission also awaits the sector, namely the preservation of soils at a time when 20% of them are degraded.

More concretely, Hectar is “At the heart of a 250 hectare pilot farm in regenerative agriculture. The objective is to set up a mixed farming-breeding system in organic conservation agriculture. This technically difficult approach has never been carried out in such a radical way on large surfaces and over such a short period of time. The mission of the pilot farm is to experiment and document this transition path ”, we learn elsewhere.

The accelerator

And that’s not all, since the campus has its own accelerator rproduced in partnership with the HEC Paris incubator, which offers “tailor-made, à la carte and participatory support”.

42 and Hectar team up

From the start of the 2021 school year, this new atypical school will also welcome a first batch of 30 students in association with 42. A training program around artificial intelligence in the agricultural world will be offered. The apprentice coders will be hosted on campus and immersed in an agricultural and entrepreneurial ecosystem for a period of 9 to 12 months. On the program, the development of technical skills in data processing and AI to meet the context and especially the needs of the agricultural world.

The apprenticeship will be separated into 4 specific projects. Smag, an agricultural software publisher, will discuss the topic “Field crops and rotation”. Students will thus study algorithmic processing, machine learning and visualization in order to prepare a multi-year rotation plan for better crops.

The second project is launched with PopFarm, which is developing connected vertical farm modules and focuses on the use of machine learning based on historical or real-time data. Then, the students will work on the development of vertical and ergonomic greenhouses as well as the recovery of data for an optimization of the culture, all overseen by MyFood, designer of connected greenhouses. Finally, experiments around weeding robots will have to be carried out by the students.

At the head of Hectar, officiates Audrey Bourolleau, former agricultural advisor to Emmanuel Macron at the Elysée. The structure is operated by the company “S4H”, owned 51% by the director and 49% by NJJ Exclusive, Xavier Niel’s personal company. “With Hectar, I continue my commitment to employment and entrepreneurship. Agriculture is changing rapidly with new jobs to be filled, opportunities for entrepreneurship, creation and innovation ”, said the founder of Iliad.

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