Terre de Monaco: Rooftop veggie gardens? Easy!
For Jessica Sbaraglia, founder of «Terre de Monaco», nothing is impossible! This motivated young athlete joins a long list of entrepreneurial Monegasque women. She wanted to create something that Monaco hasn’t seen for centuries—urban agriculture. And with the help of local businesses and a crowd-funding campaign, and the blessing of Prince Albert II, Jessica inaugurated her organic enterprise in 2016. Since then, it has blossomed into productive «micro farms», bringing Monegasque-grown food to the market!
“Terre de Monaco” multiple gardens are already showing amazing results for 2017: 3,971 kg of completely organic fruits and vegetables, grown on rooftops, balconies and small private gardens across the principality. Hard to believe? Well, a simple glance at her Instagram feed will make you a believer! Jessica is, after all, a businesswoman. She makes sure to post every collection from her gardens, turning the virtual term «feed» into a reality.
«Terre de Monaco» brings a «terra-a-terre» solution, allowing not only businesses to produce eco-agricultural produce, but also for individuals to grow gorgeous produce on a small terrace. Terre de Monaco offers 3 types of cultivation: container gardens with custom organic soil; hydroponic gardens, where the plants are grown in fortified water channels; and aeroponics, where the roots of the plant are placed in an air stream and fed by foggers. These innovative methods are truly 100% bio, as all the materials that are being used for the cultivation are from sustainable sources and support sustainable development of Monaco. Jessica has thought of everything, including the wood for the containers, which comes from sustainable, managed forests, and all the products are delivered by electric vehicle.
HelloMonaco interviewed Monaco’s «Veggie Godmother» during the height of the summer harvest. Jessica shared her ideas for future business development, explained problems that she had to face in the very beginning and added some personal inspirations that influenced her choice of business track.
HM: How did you arrive at to the idea of starting an agricultural business?
Jessica Sbaraglia: I’ve worked for 3 years on the development of «Terre de Monaco», accumulating ideas and establishing the concept of my future business. First of all, I was doing it to set myself up in the gardening market and then to build a viable structure. The idea of creating an agricultural business had several triggers. I’m originally from Switzerland, where my parents had a vegetable garden of 500 square meters working on which was their hobby. This gave me a real understanding of what natural produce is, and what kind of taste it should have. When I came to Monaco 8 years ago to start my own business, I needed to close after 2 years. This was when I started asking myself: What do I do? What is my mission? What are my values? And I naturally returned to the ground to heal myself after the frustration. «Terre de Monaco» was born as a deep reflection of myself and, what’s more important – my soul.
HM: Do you have specialized education?
JS: Yes, I’ve been studying on farms in France, especially on the Bec-Hellouin Farm, which specializes in permaculture (a farming technique using good sense, working with the land and respecting the environment).
HM: What were you doing before starting «Terre de Monaco»?
JS: I graduated from business school in Switzerland and was devoted to different kinds of activities: I was playing tennis and became the 3rd Swiss Junior Tennis player, also have tried modelling. Later I worked in sales of luxury watches, boats, cars and as a PR ambassador for the Formula E.
HM: Why did you move to Monaco?
JS: It happened 8 years ago when I came to open a design centre that included several projects, most importantly, yachting.
HM: Did you receive any support from HSH Albert II, Prince of Monaco?
JS: I am so happy to receive the support from HSH Albert II, Prince of Monaco!! It’s amazing that he supports eco-oriented projects, and «Terre de Monaco» is part of that. I think It is vital for our future to make a difference and create something new!
HM: What challenges have you encountered in your business?
JS: It has been 200 years that agriculture in Monaco no longer exists. In addition, the city is 80% concrete. This already constitutes some difficulties and that’s why it requires a lot of work. However, we have an innovative, ecological, non-mechanized agriculture adapted to small areas. All these things give a great taste and nutritious quality to our products!
HM: Do you have problems related to humidity, insects, and if so, how do you combat it?
JS: Our products are produced respecting organic values, so no treatments, pesticides, or insecticides are used. We must accept the fact that we have to eat or destroy 10 to 15% of our production, as it is the law of equilibrium.
HM: Do you plan to expand your business to neighbouring regions?
JS: The project was developed for Monaco and its neighbouring areas. We become farmers if the land exceeds 300m2. If not, we propose the development of vegetable gardens in the ground, or in our tailor-made containers. Since we also produce our organic seedlings, we can offer year-round planting crops following with our advice and maintenance.