News - August 6, 2015

Plant-e among most innovative companies worldwide

Koen Guiking

Plant-e, a spin-off of Wageningen University, is one of the most innovative technology companies in the world, according to the World Economic Forum.

Plant-e was elected as one of the 49 Technology Pioneers 2015. The start-up company in Wageningen makes sustems to draw energy from the roots of living plants and turn this into electricity. 'The acknowledgement of the World Economic Forum shows that we are not a bunch of "weird scientists" with a nice idea, but that we really have something to offer', reacts Nanda Schrama, manager at Plant-e.

Various systems developed by Plant-e are already in use in the Netherlands. On the roof of the NIOO institute (Wageningen UR's neighbour) the first system was installed four years ago. Plant-e still collects data from this installation and will soon give it an upgrade. Plant energy is also used to light up a crash barrier in Ede (see photo) and to supply electricity to a light-art-work in Zaandam. And this summer, 100 square meters of energy producing plants will be installed on a school yard in Zeist. these plants will power a wifi hotspot.

The technology can also be implemented on a much larger scale, says Schrama. Plant-e is developing a tube system that can be implemented in wetlands. The idea is that the tubes will be installed in the soil of peat land or swamps. 'That way we are creating a whole new business model', says Schrama. Nature can be turned into a clean power station. Plant-e hopes it can soon start a pilot. 'In the lab this technology works. Now we want to test it outside.' The search for financers of this pilot is in full swing.

The election of 'technology pioneer' by the World Economic Forum could really open doors. Schrama: 'For two years, we can make use of the World Economic Forum network. Free of charge. For instance, we have been invited for the "Summer Davos" meeting in China in September. During those meetings people also discuss climate change and the energy issues of the future. That is an excellent opportunity to showcast what solutions we have to offer.'

The announcement of the Technology Pioneers Awards 2015, on 5 August, has already given Plant-e a lot of media exposure. ‘We were in programmes of NOS, BNR and RTLZ and a photographer of press agency ANP also came by. Moreover, the Financial Times wrote a full page story about the awards in which we were mentioned too', Schrama says. A few months ago she had accidentally stumbled upon information about the election of Technology Pioneers. She filled in the forms to nominate Plant-e and now that small Wageningen company has the same 'technology pioneer' status as Google, Mozilla and Dropbox once had.

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