Meet Neoplants, a French startup that is designing genetically modified houseplants to absorb air pollution. The startup’s first plant, Neo P1, works with the company’s own microbiome in the soil near the plant’s roots.
Neoplant specifically targets a group of indoor air pollutants that cannot be effectively treated by traditional air purifiers. Most air cleaners focus on small matters. But volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are more difficult to deal with.
That’s why Neoplants focuses on two categories of VOCs – formaldehyde (HCO) and benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX). These pollutants come from pollution outside the home, but also from materials used in construction, such as paint, coatings and chemicals. Cooking and smoking can increase indoor pollution.
“Our plant contains the four main components that cause indoor air pollution. But it can be a matter of plant, so it can turn it into something useful,” founder and CEO Lionel Mora told me.
Plants usually assimilate CO2. But Neo P1 is modified at the DNA level so that it produces new enzymes that can change air pollution. For example, it converts formaldehyde into fructose, and BTEX compounds into amino acids that the plant can later use to make proteins.
While genetically modified organisms are not new, the company says applying these methods to houseplants is new. “We had to sequence and explain the genetic makeup of this plant,” co-founder and CTO Patrick Torbay told me.
But the plant needs some bacteria to fix the VOCs. The startup selected the most efficient group of bacteria on toluene and gasoline through several rounds of evolution. In other words, Neoplant customers need to periodically add some proprietary drops to ensure that the combination of the plant and microbiome-enhanced soil is working optimally.
After four years of research, Neoplant will begin pre-orders sometime in the first quarter of 2023. The company creates its own herbal buds. In cooperation with industrial companies in the horticulture industry, he made it possible to produce these plants in their production areas.
NeoPlant sells the NeoP1 package with the plant, which includes a basket with a basket and three months of Microbiome for $179. The company has raised $20 million from True Ventures, Heartcore, Entrepreneur First, Collaborative Fund and various business angels, such as Niklas Zenström.
Next time Neoplants aims to use the same processes with other types of plants and other properties. He wants to start working on carbon capture and storage next year.