Wageningen-based company Plant-e was awarded a €2.5 million grant from the European Innovation Council (EIC). The grant was awarded for the further development of sensor applications that are powered by living plants. The EIC grant is the last push towards commercialization and scalability of its sensor applications.
The Plant-e team reacts enthusiastically. Marjolein Helder, CEO of Plant-e: “The grant enables us to speed up the development of the products and the team at the same time. Development of innovative technology in a changing market is challenging and it’s really helpful if someone tells you once in a while that you’re doing a good job. The competition for an EIC grant is high, less then 1 in 10 applications is granted. So receiving one is very rewarding, especially when the feedback you get is as positive as this.”
Living plants as a sustainable power source
Plant-e was founded in 2009 as a spin-off company of the department of Environmental Technology of Wageningen University & Research and received early support from StartLife. Plant-e develops technology in which living plants generate electricity. Plant-e delivered several ambient lighting systems powered by plants since 2014. Since 2019 focus has shifted towards powering IoT solutions.
In 2019 Plant-e started developing sensor applications that are powered by living plants. This method enables monitoring of both urban and remote greenery. First focus is on soil-moisture and ground water level monitoring. By using living plants as a power source the use of batteries can be avoided, which improves sustainability as well as reliability of the sensor system. Batteries need (bi-)annual replacement and contribute highly to a growing amount of waste. Moreover, regular replacement of batteries is both capital and labor intensive. Plant-e can provide a sustainable and low-maintenance alternative through plant power.
Advanced technology of the future
The EIC jury praises Plant-e in their evaluation report: “The jury was impressed with the tenacity, durability and innovation of the company and its management team.” Plant-e’s technology was regarded highly as well. One of the evaluators of the proposal mentioned: “The generation of energy from plants is an advanced technology of the future. At the same time this method/product is even able to save CO2 while working, that’s a real novelty.”
The EIC-grant enables Plant-e to further integrate the supply chain and fully dedicate the plant-power source to sensor-applications. Next to that Plant-e will work on atomization and scale-up of production to reduce delivery time and production costs.