Start-up of the Week: The magical veggie garden of tomorrow

.”Your sneak preview of the future” is the slogan of Innovation Origins, and that’s just what we will highlight with our Start-up of the Week column. Over the past few days, five start-ups of the day have been featured and on Saturday we will choose the week’s winner.

Innovation Origins presents a Start-up of the Day each weekday

We shall consider various issues such as sustainability, developmental phase, practical application, simplicity, originality and to what extent they are in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of UNESCO. They will all pass by here and at the end of the week, the Start-Up of the Week will be announced.


Vienna Textile Lab – Colorful microbial microfibres

Giving clothes a bit of color has been done for thousands of years. Dyes from nature has been used for this ever since prehistoric times. Yet these had their limitations and that meant that certain colours were very difficult to come by. Purple is a good example. Have you ever noticed that this colour can’t be found on any country’s national flag? That”s because purple dyes used to be very expensive. Synthetic dyes came on the market in the 19th century and solved that problem.

Vienna Textile Lab is really going to where it originally all started – back to nature. Another discovery was made in the 19th century: the existence of bacteria. These microorganisms can be an organic and sustainable method for dyeing textiles. The disadvantage of synthetic substances is that they are bad for your health and the environment. And the beauty of this Austrian textile dye is that it is based on an entirely organic process.

Energy Floor – Streets made of solar cells

This Rotterdam team came up with a groundbreaking innovation in 2010. A sustainable dance floor that could generate its own energy using the kinetic energy of dancing partygoers. They collaborated with artist Daan Roosengaarde and this resulted in a luminescent interactive floor. This was world news at the time and the floor was actually in place.

The principles behind this dance floor are still very much alive ten years later; it’ s just morphed into a street tile now. The kinetic energy has been replaced by solar energy, so that anywhere where there are streets, small power stations can be installed. Which means charging stations for electric cars might no longer be necessary. The Energy Floor also monitors traffic flow so that everyone can see exactly where there is available parking space. Any other advantages? A lot of street lighting is switched on when nobody is around. Such a waste! Lastly, it just looks really cool.

Revibe – Electricity out of thin air

On railways, construction sites and in heavy industry, colossuses of machines are in constant motion. These movements cause friction and friction equals energy. However, this energy is still being completely wasted at the moment, even though it could also be used to generate electricity. This is the main starting point underlying the Swedish start-up Revibe. They have developed a compact module that serves as a kind of mini-generator for where there is a lot of kinetic energy present.

The advantages are obvious. Equipment that uses this start-up’s technology no longer need a battery or a power cable! And on top of that, it might be the cleanest form of electricity generation ever. The patented battery is very easy to mount on a vibrating surface and then goes ahead and does the job all by itself. And not insignificantly, the electricity can even be stored so that you can use it to do things like make coffee or something similar.

Spaceflow – The e-VVE and landlord

Homeowners’ associations usually have a rather old-fashioned baby-boomer image. Tenants’ contact with their neighbours or with the manager of an apartment complex tends to happen on an inefficient and decentralised basis. This ought to change; that’s what they thought at the Czech start-up Spaceflow. They developed an app specifically for tenants of residential complexes that was designed to take over all communication concerning residential and communal areas. Think of it as a kind of Facebook, but only meant for people who are part of your building complex.

Through the app you can get in touch with neighbours, request repairs, read service announcements and give feedback. There is no need either for separate keys for the communal areas. The app can also be configured for specific situations in a modular way for property managers.

In theory, the app could even replace your house key. So if you lose your phone, you’ll immediately lose your house key as well. Want to make it even more disastrous? In the event you pay for everything via Apple Pay, you would strike out three times in a row then.

Grow X – Vertically grown top quality vegetables

Human beings have been growing crops horizontally for some 7,000 years now. And as this past century has seen us all of a sudden doing just about EVERYTHING differently, we’re also now seeing a trend with vertical gardens and fields. Why vertical? It’s a bit of the same principle behind skyscrapers; they take up less space and are efficient. Vertical gardens have been around for some time already, but now there are also vertical vegetable gardens. Grow X is an example: they grow high-end vegetables for the more luxurious segment of the market.

Fresh vegetables that are grown in their own region are of great importance to the best restaurants. This is what distinguishes them from the hospitality industry where imported or canned vegetables are on the menu. Entrepreneurs can choose from around fifty organically grown mini vegetables offered by Grow X. The advantage of these mini varieties is that their taste is more concentrated than conventional varieties. Grow X is nowadays a regular supplier to the leading Dutch restaurants.

The fact that the Netherlands is internationally known as a major innovator in the horticultural sector has been confirmed once again by this start-up. It is even not commonly known in The Netherlands that our small country is the second largest food producer in the whole world. And this is not per square metre or per capita. No, this is in absolute numbers. Innovation and efficiency are the magic words here and Grow X is an excellent example of this. It is such an excellent example that we have crowned this ambitious start-up from Zeeland Start-up of the Week!

Best read: great, those electrical buses, but a power cut is on its way

Good news in a week when air quality is not that doing that well due to the forest fires in the Amazon. Within five years, Dutch public transport companies expect to have 75 percent of their buses running on electricity. This was the best read story on Innovation Origins this past week.

The great thing is that bus companies are not waiting around for the time when they can only buy zero emission buses, because they are already doing this. The downside is that the existing electricity grid does not seem to be able to cope with so much pressure. Indeed, earlier this month, the grid manager warned energy network company Alliander against a full-blown power cut if no speedy efforts are made to expand the existing electricity network.

Five-fold increase in electricity demand

Jelle Wils, from the Alliander energy network company

Alliander spokesperson Jelle Wils acknowledges the seriousness of the situation: “In the coming years, we expect to see a five-fold increase in the amount of energy required in Amsterdam. This is because a number of new measures are converging, e.g. more data centers will have to be built because of the the growing need for mobile data. These internet hubs consume the same amount of energy as a town of 30,000 inhabitants. Besides that, cities want to keep cars with combustion engines out, which means that 70,000 charging stations will have to be added to Amsterdam’s network. Furthermore, politicians want to see homes divert away from natural gas, and that means more cooking will be done using electricity.”

It would be preferable if the energy required could be generated sustainably, for example from solar parks. But the existing electricity grids care not able to process the electricity they generate. Wils: “One of the reasons for this is the lack of power cables in the ground. We have a high level of reliability when it comes to delivering electricity in the Netherlands because there are always two cables available. The second cable is only used in case of emergencies. The moment we also start using these spare cables, it’s a smart solution with a major impact. We are already doing this in the Haarlemmermeer as an emergency measure, but this will also happen throughout the country in the near future.”

Power-hungry airport

In any case, the Haarlemmermeer is a complex area owing to the presence of the power-hungry Schiphol airport. Wils: “The net there is now completely full and we have been looking for several years for a new distribution station. It will require the equivalent of 12 football fields and that kind of space is not easily found. Everyone wants mobile internet and electricity for cooking, but nobody wants that kind of thing in their backyard.”

It’s clear: the Dutch power supply will remain a hot issue for some years to come. The subject will be on the Lower House’s agenda following the parliamentary recess in the Lower House on the 4th of September. The Minister of Economic Affairs will then outline his plans.


Why electric mobility is stalling in Germany


According to Statista, 46.5 million cars populate Germany’s roads. With a population density of 82.6 million people, more than one in two drives a car. By comparison, the stock of electric cars is dwindling. The Federal Motor Transport Authority counted just 53,861 vehicles at the beginning of the year. What is the reason for this?

Despite the environmental bonus for electric mobility announced by the German government in 2016, the sale of electric vehicles may not really gain momentum. According to a recent study by Horváth & Partners, this is due to the high sales prices. And this despite the trend towards falling battery costs for electric vehicles.

The management consultancy calculates: in 2017, one kilowatt hour cost about 170 euros, almost 25 percent less than in the previous year. In 2010, the price was still around 600 euros per kilowatt hour. Accordingly, the value of leading lithium-ion batteries is falling steadily. Dr. Oliver Greiner, head of the study and partner at Horváth & Partners assumes that prices will continue to fall: “We are convinced that the trend will continue and that one kilowatt hour in 2020 will cost less than 100 euros.

Prices for batteries are falling, the price premium for electric vehicles has been rising since 2015

The customer reaches deep into his pocket

Only the customer feels nothing of all this – quite the contrary. He still has to dig deep into his pocket for an electric car. For example, the electric car from BMW is available from 37,550 euros, as can be seen on the website. The price for a BMW1 Series starts at 25,150 Euros.

One of the most important factors in spreading electric vehicles further is the price. According to Horváth & Partners, falling battery prices are elementary for the breakthrough. At the moment, electric cars are simply too expensive for consumers.

Dr. Oliver Greiner calculates: “Even if you include the purchase premium of the German government, the premium was still over 30 percent. “It should, therefore, be noted that the rapidly falling battery prices have not yet reached the customer. It also becomes clear that the German government’s eco-rebate offers little incentive for consumers.

Understandably, because who spends 30 percent more on a car voluntarily if, moreover, it is not yet secured where it can be refueled?

Not enough charging stations

According to Wikipedia, there are currently around 12,000 charging stations with more than 35,000 charging points in Germany. In some cities, for example in Stuttgart, the network with 312 stations is relatively well developed. Others, on the other hand – and Munich is one of them – are lagging behind with 218. Goingelectric puts it vividly on a map of Germany.

Stadtwerke München is trying to counteract this. With a charging station for home use. Only this costs 1,249 Euro with a charging capacity of 11kW. For 22 kW an electric car owner has to pay 1,549 Euro, plus the preparation of the electrical installation.

If you want to be comfortable, you have to reach into your pocket again. How nice it would be if at least the car manufacturers set a good example and passed on price advantages to consumers. But they are so busy working on their past mistakes like diesel and exhaust scandals that there is no time to seriously work on electro-mobile concepts. So far, at least, there has been no talk of attractive offers for consumers.

In view of current developments, the German government’s goal of achieving a distribution of 1 million electric cars by 2020 is also faltering. If the growth rate continues as in the previous year, one million electric vehicles will only be on German roads in 2022. Horváth & Partners have calculated this. This also includes plug-in hybrids and vehicles with fuel cells.

In short; it is completely laudable that, despite everything, there are consumers who choose an electric car when buying a car.

Anyone planning to do so can at least download the federal government’s application for an environmental bonus here:

Photo Pixabay

Chart:Horváth & Partners