In 2022, Vert d'Iris has committed to positive directions for the development of the cooperative. This commitment is also that of its network. It is yours. Ours. THANK YOU!
Thanks to its employees and its network, Vert d'Iris was able to get through 2022 despite serious challenges:
the sustained fall in sales in our traditional outlets, and the restructuring of the organic sector since the end of 2020,
a wage bill becoming increasingly oversized given the dynamics of our activities,
accounting practices that were still clumsy and not very readable,
a commercial flow too dependent on rigid channels,
material equipment still too rudimentary: lack of irrigation, mobility, nursery, reception, storage and processing areas.
We have analysed these challenges. We have responded by adapting our practices. The results will be detailed in the 2022 Management Report, but here are five initial orientations we committed to.
1) Expenditure control drives 2022 result toward annual breakeven
2022's wage bill has been reduced by half compared to 2021. In addition to apprentices, the cooperative's recruitment favours entrepreneurial trainees, professionals benefiting from European mobility programmes (Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs, MobiliseSME), volunteers (Belgian and European) and young in citizen services.
Purchase/resale volumes have fallen, reducing both the cost of purchasing goods (which had exploded in 2020) and logistics costs (transport, storage, management). Our focus returns to the production of high quality plants, the core business of the cooperative.
Following a high budget deficit in 2021, the 2022 annual result will be close to breakeven.
2) We are making accounting and operational objectives more explicit
In 2022 Vert d'Iris opened a polyvalent management assistant position to support its accounting and financial operations. Academic internships will reinforce the many, crucial, yet largely overlooked roles of this position in 2023.
Vert d'Iris has hired a new accountant, which eases the restructuring of our accounts: improved protocols, in-house encoding of purchases, structural revision of our accounts.
Our knowledge of costs is improving, allowing more frequent statements and better founded projections.
Our Board of Directors plans to be recruit new talents at the beginning of 2023.
3) New webshop makes distribution more efficient and flexible
Investing in the LinkedFarm platform allows us to better control our distribution. In its producers' hubs, Vert d'Iris pools catalogues and delivery operations with local and complementary producers: Seizoensmaak (animal products, fruit and vegetables), In Terra Veritas (natural wines), Kiekebich (artisanal bakery).... These innovative hubs provide great flexibility for users and new outlets for our partner producers.
The online shop helps to optimise communication, especially by allowing direct contact with customers. It was the local inhabitants who invited Vert d'Iris to set up the first hub in the Cinquantenaire Park (moved to the Wappers café during the cold season), as well as the second, at the Ferme Rose in Uccle. They also proposed an original loyalty model: in exchange for a purchase credit combined with a subscription in the cooperative's capital, buyers receive a record 35% discount on Vert d'Iris products. ==> Thank you to all the cooperators and volunteers who acted as ambassadors for Vert d'Iris in 2022 🙏.
The distribution to restaurants is slowly resuming and is also benefiting from the online shop.
4) Vert d'Iris promotes on-farm innovation
The energy previously spent on buying and selling is redeployed in production and processing innovations.
In 2022, the list of products tested is substantial: sprouted seeds (suspended after an internal audit revealed a lack of dedicated infrastructure), an original range of dried herbal teas (acclaimed by our sales networks), InnRGreen honey (3 harvests, in partnership with La Bijerie), generalization of veggy boxes (soup, gazpacho, small/big boxes, gift,...), new processing partnership with Pipaillon conserverie (pestos, green tomato jam), falafel with a young Iraqi cook...
Market gardening techniques have progressed with the systematic use of anti-weed tarps, permanent steel growing structures, plant decoctions (garlic, comfrey, nettle, horsetail, tansy, etc.) for plant health purposes, as well as the use of champost (recovered from ECLO) and self-produced compost and vermicompost. We have tested or generalised new crops: Little Finger aubergines, chives, Armenian cucumbers, Red Russian kale, giant beans, new varieties of mint, etc...
The production of propagation material is being refined and is increasingly meeting the seasonal needs of the cultivation plans, despite the lack of sheltered space and irrigation.
After a long pause, the COMPOST sector is gradually consolidating its commercial dimension with the collections of plant by-products from professionals (The Barn, ECLO, etc.). This project benefited from the regional BeCircular programme.
The HERBO sector (aromatic and medicinal plants) has taken a commercial turn with the marketing of our new range of herbal teas, the expansion of coriander and other Apiaceae, and a massive extension of the aromatic beds planned in InnRGreen for 2023 (through a profesionnal internship and a sector-specific financial plan).
Vert d'Iris has started to review its apprenticeship programmes and to reflect on its social inclusion functions. Participation in Erasmus+ projects on agroecological companionship and "green inclusion" has provided considerable insight. As a continuation of these activities, Vert d'Iris is preparing a new initiative from 2023 to 2025.
5) Vert d'Iris is actively pursuing quality and investment strategies
We have completed the recovery, storage and inventory of the donated glass greenhouses. We now have (more than) enough material to build a second spacious and multifunctional greenhouse on our InnRGreen garden.
Thanks to an amendment to our farm lease (27 years renewable), Vert d'Iris has recovered an abandoned tennis court to make it our very first logistical depot, and equipped it with an access ramp. Our BAC and BRIC sectors now share 500 m2 devoted to manage our stocks of plant containers and greenhouse parts.
Reconstruction of the recovered greenhouse is planned by an architect trainee, who is in charge of the master plan for our two potagers in Neerpede. Academic trainees in sustainable architecture (2022 and 2023) are supporting this project.
Vert d'Iris managed to fund the installation of a large rainwater capacity (120 m3) in its Betteraves enz. potager. This will improve our irrigation practices and the quality of our products (less water stress) from 2023 on. This project has received support from the GoodFood programme of the Brussels Region and from its network. It will also be the focus of a long-term academic internship in 2023.
In 2022, we continued to invest in ergonomy (introduction of second hand concrete horticultural furniture to replace wood), sanitation, mobility (motorised access to the garage) and reception (thermal insulation and partitioning of the offices), in line with the new master plan. These investments have helped us resume our on-farm hosting activities in 2022 (team-building, school workshops) - long disrupted by the Covid.
The soil analysis conducted in 2022 during an academic internship demonstrated the agronomic interest of plant organic matter circularity on a regional scale: the humus rate of InnRGreen soil has increased by a factor10 in 7 years (from 1% to more than 10%). In addition to the climatic interest of carbon sequestration, this circularity has built a valuable fertility capital for our vegetable gardens.
Challenges aren't just a thing of the past. We know 2023 will be full of them. In particular :
Operating result is up in 2022, but cash flow is still struggling. We enter 2023 with a cash crunch resulting from three factors: the last arrears inherited from the 2021 deficit, the necessary rotation of our funds, and the delay in receiving a major subsidy relating to an already completed project.
For all active sectors at Vert d'Iris (VEG, BAC, BRIC, COMPOST, HERBO, HOST, PEP, TRANS, without forgetting ADMIN), we will have to continue the functional transition towards a smaller permanent team, relying more on temporary workers. Thanks to a pro-active recruitment of interns and volunteers over the past few months, the 2023 team is already well on its way.
==> there are still opportunities for volunteers wishing to contribute on a regular basis in a diversity of ways, for example through pruning fruit trees, bagging herbal teas, turning compost, rinsing canisters, networking...
Good cooperation involves handling delegation and learning, and requires treasures of good energy in communication and pedagogy - not to be taken for granted 🧚🏽
We will have to consolidate our new producers hubs, as well as the collaborative links between producers, and the supply chains that support them.
We will have to continue material investments, in terms of mobility, irrigation, improved workspaces. The flagship project of 2023 (and 2024) will probably be the master plan that will allow us to design the future greenhouse in synergy with the multiple functions of our two potagers.
We will have to evaluate opportunities such as the very recent launch of the sale of the InnRGreen site, and if necessary to look for partners.
We will have to continue to raise the funds necessary for our investments and ensure their rotation: shares, bonds, loans, are financial tools obeying varied temporalities, which sooner or later require rotation.
To this end, we will have to strengthen the financing tools already created, by aiming for accounting and financial excellence, the continuous improvement of our financial forecasts, and the prospection of diversified sources of financing: crowd-funding, donations, B2B partnerships, foundations, regional and federal subsidies, European projects...
Workers, cooperators, producers, apprentices, customers, volunteers, trainees, visitors, investors... you all helped Vert d'Iris to address challenges and set positive directions for 2023: THANK YOU!
To all, Vert d'Iris wishes a peaceful and prosperous year 💚
Supporting Vert d'Iris means investing in emerging models
of the ecological and social transition