Sometimes the best technology is nature itself. In an age of electrifying our energy and transportation industries, we can forget that the term “going green” can be taken literally. Neoplants, a new French startup, took that message to heart in designing genetically modified houseplants that absorb air pollutants.
I met one of the co-founders, who gave me an up-close look at their first plant, the Neo P1, and what it can do. No wires or batteries, just good ol’ mother nature with a bit of human tweaking.
We are all keenly aware of air pollution and its impact on the planet over the past few decades. One solution that people have turned to help them breathe is using portable air purifiers, ranging from budget options to luxury names like Dyson. While they provide efficient air purification, there are some downsides, such as the inability to filter out Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). These pollutants come from outdoor pollution and materials used in construction, such as paints, coatings, and chemicals. Cooking and smoking can also contribute to indoor pollution.
New technologies are being developed to try to capture these compounds, but the problem is challenging, given that the particles are usually smaller than one nanometer in diameter. But Neoplants took a different approach, seeking to amplify plants’ inherent VOC removal properties. Using a combination of molecular biology, plant physiology, metabolism, and microbiome engineering, Neoplants successfully bioengineered plants to fight air pollution.
While genetically modified organisms aren’t new, the company says applying these methods to houseplants is. Building upon the work of previous NASA studies, the team’s first product, the Neo P1, is explicitly designed to fight against harmful indoor air VOCs, including Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene, and Xylene (BTEX), and Formaldehyde. Moreover, the Neo P1 is up to 30 times more efficient than the most depolluting regular houseplants.
The Neo P1 doesn’t require any particular food or treatment that regular plants do. Just keep it in adequate sunlight to help it grow. It does, however, sit in a biodegradable pot that improves airflow and water retention, meaning you only have to water Neo P1 once every three weeks during winter and once every two weeks over summer. The company also recommends regularly adding their proprietary power drops to ensure that the plant and microbiome-enhanced soil keep working well.
You can preorder the whole Neo P1 and pot package right now for $179, $20 of which the company pledges to donate to research & development against climate change.