The Wageningen company Plant-e has been awarded a subsidy of €2,5 million from the European Innovation Council. The subsidy has been awarded for the further development of sensor applications powered by living plants. This is an interesting solution for remote areas and urban situations in which, for example, groundwater levels or soil moisture have to be monitored. Plant-e develops technology in which living plants produce electricity. This technology was originally invented at Wageningen University and is being further developed commercially by Plant-e. In recent years, Plant-e has supplied various lighting systems that operate on plant power. Since 2019, the focus has shifted to developing sensor applications. The EIC subsidy is now giving the final push to make this application ready for the market.
Plant-e is a spin-off company of the Environmental Technology department of Wageningen University and was founded in 2009. The company has since grown into a company with 10+ employees and a reliable supplier of inspiring lighting systems that run on plant power. The systems were supplied at home and abroad and were further developed during the 2014-2021 period.
In 2019, the company started developing sensor applications powered by living plants. This offers opportunities for monitoring both remote areas and urban greenery. The first focus is on sensors for measuring the groundwater level and soil moisture content. Batteries can be avoided by using plants as a power source. This is important for both the durability and the reliability of a sensor system. Batteries have to be replaced every 1 to 2 years and thus produce a large mountain of waste and, moreover, many labor hours and costs are involved in the replacement. Plant-e can offer a sustainable and low-maintenance alternative.
Plant-e enters into partnerships with various companies that take care of different steps in the supply chain, so that the plant flow system seamlessly matches the need for different types of sensors, measurement frequency and data quality of (future) customers. In this way, Plant-e realizes an end-to-end solution, from the power source for the sensor to the dashboard on which the data can be read. This way, the customer is completely unburdened.
With the EIC subsidy that has now been awarded, Plant-e will have the financial scope to further shape the integration in the chain and to fully focus the plant power source on use for sensors. In addition, work will be done on automating and scaling up production, which will shorten lead times and reduce costs.
In the evaluation report, the EIC praises the team:
"The jury was impressed with the tenacity, durability and innovation of the company and its management team.”
(The jury was impressed by the tenacity, durability and innovation of the company and management team.)
The technology that Plant-e is working on was also highly regarded. As one of the evaluators described:
"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 production of electricity with plants is an advanced technology of the future… At the same time, this method is also able to reduce CO2 to save. That's a real novelty.)
The Plant-e team is naturally delighted. CEO Marjolein Helder: “Not only does this give us the opportunity to accelerate the development of the products and the team; it is also confirmation that we are on the right track. Developing innovative technology in a changing market is challenging and it helps enormously if every now and then someone says that you are doing a good job. Competition for an EIC project is fierce and less than 1 in 10 applicants are awarded one. Then it is a boost if you belong and also receive such praising comments.”
After the subsidy period, which lasts two years, there is still the possibility to negotiate an investment round with the EIC. This ensures that the upscaling of the sales and commercial channels is given another boost, further supporting the growth of Plant-e.
Read the official press release issued by the EIC here: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_21_5225