Sustainable Supply


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Contact : Ludovic Vincent, co-founder of Biomede

Location : Campus of EM Lyon – Ecully

Sector : Phytoextraction

Date of creation : 2018

Date of analysis : August 2020

Maturity of the project : Startup

Pioneer and world leader in plant-based extraction of heavy metals from agricultural soils.


After an engineering internship (AgroParisTech) in a winery, Ludovic Vincent discovered the problem of soil contamination by copper, which is widely used in viticulture (especially organic with the “bouillie bordelaise”). He then worked for 5 years in 2 research centers on the phytoremediation of soils by micro-organisms and plants. In 2016, with a strong technical knowledge of phytoremediation, he wanted to set up his project with his partner Patricia Gifu, PhD in oncology. The launch of the project followed a request from a farmer who was forced to abandon his plot of land because of an excessive level of copper in his soil.

Ludovic Vincent, cofounder of Biomede [1]

The first year of the project in 2017 was devoted to the laboratory phase at the Génopole d’Evry, followed by the first tests validated in the Chamber of Agriculture. In 2018, they will launch their first trials on prestigious wineries with great classified growths, and Biomede has won numerous awards. The startup is labeled by the AgroParisTech foundation. Since then, they have won customers in more than twenty appellations classified in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Chablis, Champagne, Cognac, Côte du Rhône. Biomede is also labeled Frenchtech seeds BPI.

The project was first financed in equity, then they received 30 000€ of aid, and loans were taken out to finance 50 000€ of equipment, laboratory tests and the salaries of their collaborators. The startup will soon be composed of 5 people, with a forecast of 10 by the end of 2020, a very rapid growth. As far as turnover is concerned, they expect a 3-digit growth with €60,000 in 2018, then €180,000 in 2019, and a consolidated forecast of €500,000 to €1M in 2020.

  • First company to promote phytoremediation in France
  • Several hundred kilos of copper extracted annually from polluted soils.
  • 2 main offers: diagnosis and phytoremediation
  • 180.000 € turnover in 2019
  • Soon: 10 employees
  • Sustainable Supply

Sustainable supply refers to the way in which resources are exploited/extracted with a view to their efficient exploitation by limiting scrap and environmental impact for both renewable and non-renewable resources[2].

Biomede’s main activity is to restore polluted soils. But they want to go further by recycling the materials they have extracted. The ultimate project is to set up a system to sell the plants produced on the polluted soils, which have, for example, absorbed copper. This copper could be sold to industrialists as bio-sourced copper to be used again as a treatment for vineyard plots.

At present, copper mining poses major problems of air pollution due to dust and gaseous sulfur oxide emissions and the accumulation of solid sulfite waste. The “red gold” industry is very harmful [3] and alternatives must be urgently found.

project operation

Phytoremediation is a technology that uses plant metabolism to accumulate, transform, degrade, concentrate, stabilize or volatilize pollutants (organic and inorganic molecules, metals and radioelements) contained in contaminated soil or water. 4] More specifically, they use phytoextraction methods at Biomede. Phytoextraction corresponds to the extraction, transport and accumulation of pollutants in stems and leaves by so-called “bio-accumulating” plants. The leaves, or the whole plant, are then harvested by agricultural techniques, then treated as waste, or co-products.

The pollutants concerned are metals (copper, lead, nickel, arsenic, cadmium, chromium…), phospore, and certain radioelements. Biomede’s goal is to reach lower than standard thresholds in the sludge from the wastewater treatment plants brought back into the agricultural soils. They can remove by phytoextraction several kilos of metals per hectare: for 250 ppm of metals, they remove 50 ppm/year (i.e. ⅕ per year) up to 20-30 ppm residual metals in the soil . 

4 complementary and integrated services proposed by Biomede

Biomede proposes first of all to carry out a diagnosis of the state of soil pollution. For this purpose, they use a device that quantifies heavy metal contents in agricultural soils (originally, this device was used to determine alloys in aeronautics or in mining prospecting). They then use this data to map the soil. This diagnosis is charged around 100€/ha, which is very affordable compared to existing solutions.

They then propose a mixture of seeds suitable for soil mapping to clean up the soil. To do so, they have notably studied the Lyon herbarium, in order to work with local varieties. For a period of about 4-5 years (sometimes more), seeds are planted on bare soil or between existing crops (e.g. vines). These projects are long, with an important cost (about 1000€/ha), but are one of the few solutions available to clean up agricultural soils. 

Alyssum murale is a flowering plant native to the Balkans that is used for nickel mining [5].

For the moment, Biomede’s customers are mainly winegrowers who wish to clean up their soils, especially those with large areas of vines, from 15 to 1000 ha with an average of 30 ha. If they can afford this expensive treatment, it’s because the plots of vines are particularly expensive: more than a million euros per hectare in Champagne! 6] Currently, winegrowers are facing a vine decline: treated for a long time with copper products (even in organic agriculture), the plants are mostly saturated with copper. One of the consequences would be iron deficiencies in the vines (an element still to be proven by Biomede). 

They are also seeking to create links with buyers of bio-sourced copper, for cosmetics, or as natural solvents for fine chemicals for pharmaceuticals. Some avenues are to be explored via the virucidal qualities (especially against coronaviruses [7]) of copper.

sustainable approach

Biomede estimates that 20 to 30% of European soils are contaminated. In France alone, 6,800 polluted or potentially polluted sites and soils were identified in mid-2018 in the Basol base. 8] This very high figure is linked to the country’s industrial past and the average agricultural use of 3.4 kg of copper per year.

Biomede’s agro-ecological solution would make it possible to decontaminate these soils, with a possible reuse of metals thanks to a system of plant revalorization.

One of Biomede’s projects would also be to produce a white paper on highly absorbent plants that should not be cultivated on polluted soils, especially for urban people who would like to grow vegetables!

Biomede’s services are costly, but the solutions they provide make it possible to restore more value (especially economic value) to polluted soils.

Moreover, these solutions are part of an agro-ecological approach: it is the use of responsible and sustainable techniques, representing the future and also allowing a less expensive treatment than chemical inputs.

According to an FAO report (2018), soil pollution is a worrying threat to agricultural productivity, food security and human health. 9] “Soil pollution affects the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe and the health of our ecosystems,” said Maria Helena Semedo, then FAO Deputy Director-General. “The capacity of soils to cope with pollution is limited, so preventing soil pollution should be a priority worldwide,” she added. Soil remediation is therefore a major public health issue, in addition to the economic and environmental aspects.

Biomede is part of a consumer health objective by decontaminating soil used for agriculture and therefore food consumption. In particular, they offer solutions to decontaminate cadmium, a carcinogen that is certainly very harmful to humans, even at very low thresholds. [10]

Moreover, they are aware that their processes are not accessible to all farmers, but as pioneers they want the large structures that accompany them as clients to participate in financing soil decontamination. Moreover, they take part every year in a program to raise public awareness of soil pollution, offering annually during the 48 hours of urban agriculture a hundred free diagnoses. Moreover, they are particularly happy at Biomede to allow farmers to be proud to say that they can give their children healthy land. This helps to destigmatize farmers who manage to remove old pollution from the soil.

replicability and future perspectives

For the moment, the phytoremediation sector is growing strongly and Biomede has no competitors yet, so their business model is very promising!

This market has not yet exploded because there are currently no standards on minimum soil contamination rates for agricultural production, but labels are to be expected. Biomede proposes to accompany this movement by offering solutions for soil decontamination.

For the moment, they have not suffered too much from losses of activities related to VIDOC-19, and are maintaining part of their development objectives :

  • Abroad: to develop a solution with tea plants which is a hyper-accumulator (as a solution to lead-polluted soils), but also involvement in a European project in Spain and a sustainable food project in Peru. Their goal is to show that one gains in quality by depolluting the soils, and to acquire a more global vision on biodiversity.
  • In France, developing with partners via cooperatives, particularly in viticulture. In addition, the team is growing rapidly.

We are aware that soil pollution is a very big issue for our societies, which is currently not sufficiently recognized. We were delighted to meet Ludovic, who really enlightened us on this subject, and it is a pleasure for us to share it with you.

Phytoremediation is a beautiful project, which we consider very promising. 

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