Back in May, I met Marjolein at the Webit Festival. I was fascinated to learn about her unique plant system that can be used to produce electricity! There and then, I thought the concept was excellent. We stood and talked for sometime and Marjolein agreed to be interviewed for Online Personal Stylist to tell us more about her eco-friendly creation.
Hello, Marjolein, thank you for taking the time to let me interview you. Could you please introduce yourself and your business?
I’m Marjolein Helder, founder and CEO of Plant-e. Plant-e produces electricity with living plants based on an innovative technology. The company is built on technology that I developed during my PhD at Wagenignen University between 2008 and 2012. During my PhD I founded Plant-e and together with co-founder Nanda we hired the rest of the team in 2013.
Since 2013 we’ve been developing both the technology and the products based on the technology. Currently we have two products on the market and one under development. The products we’re selling are a consumer-DIY-set that’s sold through our webshop and a stand-alone modular lighting system that we sell mainly in large numbers for decentralized lighting purposes in parks and other public areas. So basically these are plant-boxes that include LED-lights as well.
The team has grown to 6 people on permanent basis and 5-10 flexible. Together we work hard to improve the products and scale-up production. And at the same time we’re already working on the next big step: a product for application in existing wetlands.
I love the idea! What inspired you to start your business?
The planet has given us so many useful and at the same time beautiful resources I wanted to try to make use of these resources without damaging them. Therefore I felt inspired by the concept to produce electricity with living plants. It would be awesome if we can make the world greener and at the same time produce electricity that’s sorely needed. Basically we produce carbon-negative electricity. How cool is that?!
How do you feel your product is making people’s lives better?
Due to the resources we use, we have developed a very sustainable way of generating electricity. We are aiming to develop our technology to a point where it can provide a clean and sustainable form of energy for a commercial price.
How can Plant-e help to slow down climate change and enable us to live a more eco-friendly life?
The development of our wetland system will change the way we look at electricity production. It is installed underground so it doesn’t take up space and it can be combined with any other application for the same wetland. So we can generate electricity while producing rice, for example. In addition, our technology is carbon-negative because it reduces the emission of methane by 50%. Since methane is a very strong greenhouse gas (much stronger than CO2), we create a power source that has a negative carbon-balance; storing carbon while producing energy.
How does your plant system create electricity?
Do you need a certain type of plant to run your system or will any plants work?
Our technology needs to be in a wetland. Therefore the plants that are used should be able to survive in wet conditions.
Could you give us an example of how many plants you’d need to let’s say: charge a mobile phone, power an oven, and run a family home?
Right now our technology is not developed enough yet to power any of these devices. However in the future we hope to be able to power 10 households with one hectare of our technology.
Amazing! Is this in anyway dangerous to animals? Do we need to take any precautions to ensure animal and environmental safety?
This technology is in no way harmful to the environments and the surroundings.
Finally, what advice would you give to anybody interested in setting up their own eco-friendly business?
Start with doing proper research to see if you have a new innovative and realistic idea. Once you have informed yourself properly, spread the word and look for people to back you up with either knowledge or funds, or both.
Where can people find you and how can people work with you?
People can find us online, on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and our website. Furthermore we can be reached via e-mail. If People are interested to work with us they are always welcome to send an e-mail to our office mail with a detailed proposal.
Office Mail: Office@plant-e.com