Neoplants engineers devil's ivy to create a houseplant with air-purifying superpowers

Houseplants have long been recognized for their ability to capture gaseous indoor air pollutants like formaldehyde and toluene. But they accumulate those chemicals, and the plants may reach an air-cleansing saturation point. A new generation of decorative plants developed by French startup Neoplants can turn volatile organic compounds into water, sugars, amino acids and oxygen.

Neoplants took a popular, existing houseplant — Epipremnum aureum, aka devil's ivy or pothos — and added a few genes. Regular devil's ivy can remove indoor air pollutants, but the genetically modified version has two extra superpowers: it can turn formaldehyde into fructose, and benzene, toluene, ethyl-benzene and xylene into an amino acid. The plant then uses that fructose as a food source and the amino acid as a building block for proteins.

For that process, the plants work with two new strains of beneficial bacteria, selected and enhanced by Neoplants through 'artificial evolution' to efficiently metabolize formaldehyde and BTEX. Neo P1's root system is inoculated with those strains, and owners need to add a few drops of the bacteria once a month to keep the symbiotic partnership going.

Neoplants claims that its modifications to devil's ivy make the Neo P1 plant up to 30 times more potent at cleaning air than the most pollution-clearing plants currently available. Neo P1 will be available for pre-order in early 2023, with a waiting list now open. Pricing starts at USD 179 for a plant with a container designed to maximize airflow.

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Indoor air can be up to five times more polluted than outdoor air due to volatile organic compounds — potentially carcinogenic molecules found in solvents used in furniture, mattresses, textiles, cleaning products and other household items.

As consumers spend more time indoors, they're increasingly aware of the health risks within their homes. Neoplants addresses those concerns with a solution that requires zero effort beyond paying the rather hefty price for the startup's plants. 

It's an example of what we call AMBIENT WELLNESS. If your business operates in the home and garden space, how can you start thinking more like a healthcare brand, embedding physical and mental health boosters into everyday objects?

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