Dutch startups land on World Econ. Forum Tech Pioneers list

Microorganisms seen in images from David Noy and Chandra Wickramasinghe. (Microorganisms seen in images from David Noy and Chandra Wickramasinghe)

Two Dutch startup companies landed on the World Economic Forum’s list of the year’s top Technology Pioneers, “the most prominent and forward thinking tech companies,” the organization announced Thursday.

The WEF annually reviews a list of 500 international start-ups and choses the 49 most outstanding across the globe. Netherlands-based firms Protix and Plant-E made it on the list along with other international companies as “a part of a broader group of entrepreneurs who operate in sectors with high entry costs and at the centre of some of the world’s challenges, including energy production, health care, finance and digital security,” the WEF said in a press release.

Plant-E develops products in which living plants generate electricity. These products are based on technology that was fostered at Wageningen University, and then patented by Plant-E in 2007.

“Plant-E is able to produce electricity from living plants at practically every site where plants can grow. The technology is based on natural processes and is safe for both the plant, and its environment”, according to the company's website.

Plants use photosynthesis to produce organic matter so they can grow, but much of that goes unused, instead getting broken down by microorganisms at the plant’s roots. Electrons are released as a by-product, Plant-E notes, and the company created a method to capture the sub-atomic particles and converts them into electricity. Because these are wasted electrons, the process does not interfere with plant growth.

Protix on the other hand grows insects on vegetable and plant waste, and turns the bugs into animal food. Its products have been developed with the highest regard for animal welfare, product quality and safety, the company states on its website. They are actively working with the European Union to draft legislation regarding safe and qualitative production of insects and derived products.

Protix has recently moved into a larger location in Dongen, Noord-Brabant and plans on producing its products on a larger scale, according to Omroep Brabant.

“In the future we hope to have this operate on its own just like the wind panels, but at a lower cost, and in Holland this can be applied to 25 percent of the land,” said Plant-E founder Marjolein Helder in an interview with NOS.