PodPlants: Modular, plug and play vertical gardens for indoor spaces
In 2014, Australian Podplants founder Chris Wilkins won the Australian InnovationChallenge for his fresh take on vertical gardens for indoor spaces. The awardcame with $10,000 in prize money and recognition for the unique technology thathe has developed in conjunction with Sydney University, over the last eight.
Motivatedby the grim reality of issues such as agricultural vulnerabilities to climatechange and the growing recognition of the health and productivity benefits ofplants in the workplace, Wilkins began exploring current horticulturaltechnologies.
"We realizedthat hydroponics in general were really only something which experthorticulturalists could use effectively as they can be very complicated," Wilkins tells Gizmag. "We also found that there is a large problem with bacterial infection in the root zoneof the plants."
Highlightingthe need to eliminate this issue and simplify the process, Wilkins beganinvestigating the air in the root zone and developing a new technology to makethe plants grow more healthily.
And so, PodPlantswas born. PodPlants are a portable, lightweight, modular vertical garden with aunique design and watering system.
The outer shell is made from recycled ABS plastic which is high impact resistant and very thin, making it easy totransport. Each 2.4 m (7.9 ft) tall module weighs 20 kg (44 lb).
The plantsare watered through the PodPlants hyper aeroponics system.
The bareroots of the plants hang inside the unit, while tiny droplets of water arecirculated through the air and into the root zone. This has proven to eliminate the bacterialinfection common in existing greenwall plants. Because the water is only movedinto the air, it also means that very little electricity is needed to run thesystem.
"Our systemmoves less than a liter of water per hour, whereas a conventional system willmove liters per minute," explains Wilkins. "We’re also not using pumps, filters or nozzles whichhave created difficulties for other systems."
Thevertical garden is stabilized by a reservoir of water in the bottom of eachunit and because it is freestanding, it can be placed in front of an existingwall. The only requirement is access toa powerpoint to run the electricity. No pipes, drainage or wall fastenersnecessary.
The angleof development was not just to address the bacterial infection common invertical gardens, but also to respond to the research around the psychologicalimpact of plants in the workplace.
"We lookedat the research that’s been conducted at different universities, measuringcognitive performance, memory function and how company productivity changeswith or without plants and the evidence shows that the inclusion of plantsmakes a big difference, in the order of about a 15 percent increase."
Theresearch also showed that this concept is becoming more mainstream.The notion of including a natural element into the workplace was an interestingproposition for Wilkins.
"We learneda lot about the space around interior design and what they call biophilicdesign. It was incredibly interesting to see how innovative companies wereusing plants to affect the psychology of the people in the workplace. Not onlyare the plants cleaning the air and making people happier, but this forwardthinking can change a business’ corporate identity and culture to one that fitsthe sustainability agenda."
Withsustainability in mind, PodPlants use a combination of rainforest varieties,such as philodendrons, which are low lying colorant plants that grow wellindoors and do not need supplemental lighting.
The team atPodPlants maintain the plants themselves, continuing the relationship withtheir clients and refreshing the water supply monthly.
The designis fully customizable and can be produced in any size or shape.
"Thetechnology inside is standard, so we’re able to meet the clients’ needs interms of design," says Wilkins. "There are 10 different shapes and sizes to start with but wecan do anything. For example, we have one client who has asked us to design awall to wrap around the cylindrical columns inside the work space."
With revenuedoubling every month, business is on the rise for Wilkins and the team at PodPlants. So what’s next for the young innovator?
"We aregetting more and more involved in research and development and plan to open upmore product ranges from things like edible plants, outdoor walls and a productthat clips onto the face of any building."
PodPlants installations are quoted individually – more information is available via the link below.