AgriTech firm Cearitis grows its R&D in the olive fields of Provence

success story
AgriTech firm Cearitis grows its R&D in the olive fields of Provence
Marion CANALE, CEO Cearitis et Solena CANALE PAROLA, COO.Associée
21 April 2021 / Food Industries, Grow your business

The start-up is leaving Paris for Arbois and gearing up for an investment round

What better place than the olive fields of Provence to experiment with a brand new natural repellent technology? Marion Canale, a biotechnology engineer, founded Cearitis in Paris in 2020. The company is developing an innovative technique to fight olive fruit flies by releasing specific molecules, so it was perfectly logical to choose southern France to carry out its proof of concept in collaboration with olive growers in 2021. The young business owner, who received assistance from Provence Promotion to move into the Arbois Technology Park, pulls back the curtain on her ambitions. Fund raising is under way and she plans to hire 15 employees between now and 2025.

Marion Canale was a young girl when she had her eureka moment, listening to her grandfather Benedetto Canale, an olive grower in Italy's Lazio province, deplore the ravages of olive fruit flies. After five years at university, she earned a degree in biotechnology engineering and formed Cearitis with her family's blessing. The company was created as part of her senior externship. "My goal was to find an alternative to pesticides. I had the idea to hijack what already exists in nature by designing a repellent using molecules that mimic the scents of banana and almond. I combined that solution with a trap that contains the scent of a healthy olive," Marion Canale explains. Having secured a patent for her innovation, she embarked on the operational phase, leaving Evry in the suburbs of Paris in search of olive fields. "Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur is the number one farming and tree-growing region in France, so I knew it was where I wanted to conduct my experiments," adds Marion Canale.

€300,000 million raised

Marion had no connections in Provence, but in October 2020, she moved her office and laboratory to the CleanTech business incubator in the Arbois Technology Park, in the Aix countryside, thanks to guidance from Provence Promotion. "The transition was seamless and I immediately fit in. And now I realize how much joie de vivre comes from sunshine," the young woman enthuses.

The agency put her in touch with local farmers and trade unions. Her first tests will begin in June in Maussane-les-Alpilles with volunteer olive growers.

Once she receives government authorization to sell her product, she plans to begin marketing to distributors and coops in 2024. Cearitis expects to earn its first million in 2025 and has caught the eye of local business angels, with a €300,000 investment round under way. The AgriTech start-up expects to hire 15 people over the next four years, half of whom will do research work. "Our goal is to develop new solutions to fight other pests," says the farmer's granddaughter.

Nearly 30% of olive trees infested with the flies yield fruit that is unfit for consumption or olive oil production.

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