If there’s one thing that is the most defining to whether you can work comfortably in an office, it’s the abundance, or lack of, fresh air. Lighting and furniture can be easily adjusted, often at the push of a button, or a pull of a lever. But with fresh air, it’s more complicated. Windows often can’t be easily opened, and when you’re with lots of people in one space, everybody has opinions about temperature and drafts. Particularly in Europe, business buildings very often aren’t equipped with HVAC systems, and while in summer windows are usually open, in winter fresh air can be a real challenge.
That was exactly the line of thought of Denis Ivanov in 2020, then a student in the third year of his architecture major in Sofia, when he stumbled upon a YouTube video from China, that showed an installation for indoor air purification made out of seaweeds. The idea stuck with him as he prepared to graduate and to start working as a beginning architect, when in 2021 Denis heard about a Sofia municipality startup competition, and decided to apply to test out his idea for a seaweed-based oxygen reactor.
It was there that he got his first professional feedback, from participating mentors. One of these mentors was Monika Dimitrova, whose day job was a senior consultant on European funding programs. Through her work, Monika had amassed a considerable amount of exposure to sustainability-focused projects, and when she heard Denis’ pitch of a seaweed-based device for purifying air indoors, she was immediately hooked.
It’s a well-known fact that hardware is hard. Combining the work on designing and planning the first prototype with their day jobs, Denis and Monika spent a year understanding the science behind algae and the complexities of building a reactor that would be both usable and efficient in indoors applications. By mid-2022 they finally had a working prototype, which they lovingly christened Vodoraslo, and they applied for the startup competition hosted by Sofia University and the Fund of Funds of Bulgaria, where team Vitosha participated as mentors and jury members.
And that’s how Vodoraslo first appeared on our radar, and we were immediately intrigued. The Vodoraslo name is a playful take on the Bulgarian word for seaweeds, which are the main active component of the device. With a design that’s reminiscent of 1970s-era lava lamps, Vodoraslo looks like a designer ambient light for your bedroom or living room, with a green-glowing rectangular tube sticking out of a black base. But the green light-emitting tube is not just an illumination fixture: it’s a fully functioning algae reactor, that sucks in air at the bottom of the base, pushes it through the algae culture in the tube, and releases fresh oxygen at the top.
According to Monika and Denis, the first serial prototype, that has just been released for online pre-ordering, has some serious competitive advantages. With a sound emittance of only 22dB when in operation, it’s quieter than most other air purifiers, while the seaweed-based technology yields considerably more oxygen than other purification methods. “Seaweeds photosynthesize up to 40x faster than land-based plants, and are responsible for 50% of the Earth’s oxygen”, says Denis. “By choosing Vodoraslo, you get not only the best-looking purifier on the market, but also the most efficient and sustainable one.”
And sustainability is indeed at the core of the product. When you order a Vodoraslo kit, you get supplied with dried seaweeds and salts, and all you have to do as a user at home or in the office is to pour out the used emulsion over your house plants or in the garden every two weeks, and fill the tube back up with distilled water and the weeds and salts that come supplied by Vodoraslo.
As investors, we were thrilled when Vodoraslo publicly launched the product last week, and are impressed with the first orders and the press coverage the company is getting. It will be a long road to fully certificate Vodoraslo products, and to ramp up production that will allow widespread distribution in regular retail channels, but we’re happy to support the company on this road, and have full confidence that the team led by Monika and Denis will be successful in this endeavor.
You can get your very own Vodoraslo now: check out the various product types and place your pre-order today: https://vodoraslo.eu/.