TREES: The young start-up from Nantes offers small forest owners the possibility of managing their plot, rather than degrading it. She just raised 5 million euros
- Three-quarters of the French forest belong to private owners, some of whom have difficulty maintaining the trees.
- This is where the young Nantes start-up Néosylva comes in, which offers these individuals to manage these plots to be reforested for them. In full development, it has just raised 5 million euros.
In France, 3.5 million individuals own a plot of forest or about one in 20 French people. hot potato”. “These people have on the one hand a strong emotional attachment to the plot, but on the other hand great difficulties in managing and maintaining it, observes Jean-Guénolé Cornet, founder of Néosylva. As a result, the owners do not sell, but let their forest degrade. Some walk there from time to time, but that’s it. Some do not even always know the exact limits of their land! »
While the need for wood, a renewable material that captures carbon, is strong and three-quarters of the French forest are private, Néosylva has therefore taken up the challenge of better exploiting these innumerable small plots (about ten hectares on average) left almost abandoned in the four corners of the country. Launched five years ago, the Nantes start-up, which employs around ten people, has just raised 5 million euros from its shareholders, most of whom are players in the wood industry, to meet its ambitious objectives. “The idea seemed far-fetched at first, but we have exceeded the milestone of 1,000 hectares of managed forest and are aiming for 3,000 in 2025 and 10,000 in 2028, in particular thanks to word of mouth, continues Jean-Guénolé Cornet. Already 250,000 trees have been planted on these lands. »
“Very long term”
Because Neosylva does not buy the land but offers to manage all the trees that are there, but above all will find. Once an initial diagnosis has been made, a forestry project is presented to the owner and it is the start-up that finances and carries out the work. Because in most cases, the trees on site are so degraded (diseases, following a fire, averaging, mortality aggravated by global warming, etc.) that barely a third of them are exploitable. On the rest of the space, the company implements reforestation. “We offer a variety of species depending on the soil, the climate, the context, details the boss of Neosylva. We plant a lot of pines, cedar, sessile oak or poplars. It can also happen that paths are redone or ponds are dug. The environmental and landscape value is also very important.”
A lease is signed between the start-up and the owner, with a duration based on the forestry cycle… i.e. between 40 and 99 years. Because we must not be in a hurry in this story, knowing that a tree takes several decades to grow, before it can be cut down and resold. It is at this point that the company can be remunerated, by recovering half of the value produced, the rest returning to the customer. “It’s very long term, recognizes Jean-Guénolé Cornet. We will remain loss-making for several years and the owners we have won over know that they will pass this value on to their grandchildren. For them, it’s a wealth management solution. With the aim of producing quality noble wood, while enhancing the forest .”