That’s One Smart Flowerpot

This entrepreneur is harnessing the power of plants to address a chronically overlooked health hazard.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then it’s fitting that eco-entrepreneurs like Paolo Ganis would partner with Mother Nature herself to create environmentally friendly products. Paolo and his Italian company, Laboratori Fabrici, are helping consumers fight dangerous indoor air pollution using nature’s greatest defense against toxins – plants.

Paolo and his team created Clairy, a Silicon Valley-based operation that makes a smart plant indoor air purifier.

Clairy is a plant in a container equipped with technology to detoxify the air and measure air quality, temperature and humidity – and send real-time updates to the user’s smartphone via its app.

Paolo’s design engineer partners knew the technology would work. They turned to Paolo to find out how to attract a market.

Check out his advice in the Q&A below:

Longitudes: Why do we need an indoor air purifier, and what makes Clairy different?

Paolo: We’ve known for a long time that certain plants can help eliminate toxic agents in the air. They do this not through their leaves but through their roots.

Unlike a traditional planter, Clairy amplifies the natural detoxifying properties of plants by directing toxic agents through the roots of the plant. Clairy is a filtration system based on the principle of phytoremediation. It uses sensors to detect toxins and updates you through our app over Wifi.

But science and technology aside. It also looks good! For today’s buyer, the design is very important.

There is a great need for this product. According to the World Health Organization, indoor air pollution is one of the biggest threats to our health. The air we breathe in our homes and offices is five times more polluted than outdoor air because toxins such as formaldehyde, xylene and ammonia are trapped in sealed structures.

Longitudes: What makes your product stand out from the competition?

Paolo: No other product has this combination of Italian design, sensors, the integration of Wifi and our app – and with such a common object as a flowerpot with real plants, which is something we already have inside our houses or offices.

Plus it’s a green product, not just for its use of plants. We found the right combination, which the market appreciated.

Longitudes: How did you and your team come together to start Laboratory Fabrici?

Paolo: My friend, Alessio D’Andrea, met our chief of design, Vincenzo Vitiello, at university. Vincenzo was working on these ideas as part of his thesis project. It was obvious to me this product was special.

We moved fast. We founded our company in Italy and developed and implemented our prototype in 2015. By January 2016, I had moved to Silicon Valley and founded our U.S. entity, Clairy, and then launched a Kickstarter campaign.

Longitudes: What has been your biggest challenge so far?

Paolo: After we launched our Kickstarter campaign, we suddenly had to move 2,000 products to 52 countries.

The problem? The ceramic that we use in Clairy is very delicate. The thought of the product breaking during shipping kept me awake at night.

We had to find the right type of packaging and process that would protect our product. Ultimately UPS helped us to solve that problem.

Longitudes: Why partner with UPS?

Paolo: We wouldn’t do business with a company lacking a commitment to reduce its carbon footprint.

Not only does UPS bring the logistics guidance and expertise on shipping a product like ours, but it’s also aligned with our mission to help reduce pollution. It’s a perfect fit.

Longitudes: What do you envision for the future of your company?

Paolo: I want to create a whole line of indoor and outdoor pollution products and services.

We’re looking at using artificial intelligence to understand and create responsive services around pollution. But our main goal is to create products that people love and want to buy.

Longitudes: What worries you about the future?

Paolo: Indoor air pollution isn’t something we talk about enough.

When you think of air pollution, you picture the smog in a big city. You can’t see indoor air pollution, and often you can’t smell it.

We’re trying to do our part. Fortunately, the EU has made indoor air pollution a bigger part of its agenda.

Paolo Ganis is the co-founder and CEO of Laboratori Fabrici.

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