09.11.2017

Breathe easier with green technology

Problems with indoor air quality have garnered media attention in recent years. The company Naava, invented at JYU, uses plant technology to improve the situation.

Aki Soudunsaari started getting troubling symptoms sparked by poor air quality while teaching at a school. At a JYU Innovation class, Soudunsaari met Environmental Science student Niko Järvinen. Järvinen had experience in purifying wastewater with microbes. The two started pondering whether the purifying power of microbes could also work to improve air quality.

After rigorous research, they found their answer: yes. NaturVention, now known by the name Naava, was founded in 2011 as a natural extension of the pair’s work in class. The company produces so-called smart green walls, which have been found effective in removing harmful substances from indoor air.

Power and design

The effect of the Naava green walls is based on the purifying power of plant roots. Houseplants have long been known to improve air quality, but most people don’t know the effect comes from the roots, not the leaves.

That is why plants on Naava walls do not grow on soil, but on special growing surfaces designed specifically for the roots. A study has found the purifying power of Naava products to be 129 times that of regular houseplants.

Homes, schools, offices, public buildings – none of these building types have been spared from air quality interventions in recent years. Serious symptoms stemming from poor air may even prevent strongly sensitized individuals from attending school or work altogether. Smart green walls have been found to significantly decrease these individuals’ symptoms.

Naava walls are manufactured to consider not just technology, but also design. Green walls can function as eye-catching design elements in diverse spaces. Helsinki-Vantaa airport, for example, features Finland’s largest Naava wall.

HelsinkiAirport(4).jpg

Destination: USA

The Jyväskylä company’s journey from the modest local NaturVention into the rapidly globalising Naava has been a fast one. Naava is on its way to becoming a Finnish startup success story, exemplifying how a simple idea can be applied to a global context.

Naava has managed to inspire a swarm of investors, and its recent financing rounds have raised significant sums to ensure their continuing growth. Technology mag Wired named Naava as Helsinki’s hottest startup company in fall 2017.

Naava’s headquarters remain in Jyväskylä. Besides Finland, the company currently also does business in Sweden, and is planning to start marketing the purifying power of plants globally.

Naava’s newest venture is trying to establish their footing in the fickle American market. In spring 2017, the company opened a production facility in New Jersey, which they intend to use as a starting point for delivering Naavas to New York office spaces. This Jyväskylä innovation, then, will soon be delivering clean air all the way to the Big Apple.