How do you scale ambitious climate solutions? This “Most Innovative Startup” at the 2023 International Builders’ Show has a solution, and it involves grass.
Similar to bamboo, this fast-growing perennial grass reaches heights of 20 feet. With high carbon capture and massive annual yields, this grass is the perfect material for Plantd’s mission. Once tasked with keeping astronauts alive, former SpaceX engineers Huade Tan and Nathan Silvernail joined sustainability-focused entrepreneur Josh Dorfman for a new mission: decarbonizing Earth.
Thus, Plantd was born.
Plantd's Carbon-Negative Structural Panels
Plantd makes carbon-negative building materials for homebuilders using renewable grass instead of trees. Coupled with their modular, automated “factory of the future,” the company aims to outperform wood in cost, carbon removal, and performance. Their first test case? Structural panels.
The panel has just two ingredients: the perennial grass and a small amount of resin (with the formaldehyde reacted out before reaches Plantd’s factory). This creates a low-VOC product with less chemical additives compared to other products, according to the company.
The Plantd panels, a starting-point product for the company, will have the advantage of being competitively priced in the market. Oftentimes you see premiums attached to energy-efficient products; this is something that the Plantd team aims to mitigate.
“We’re not the first company to attempt to bring an alternative structural panel to market,” says Dorfman, co-founder and CEO, Plantd. “Where we believe we stand the chance to succeed is in reinventing the machines and the production technology for building materials.”
Plantd’s factory will be automated, 100% electric, and multi-product capable. The start-up estimates that with its system, it can produce the same amount of material as wood OSB while using nine times less land—due to the fast-growth rates of grass-farming coupled with its near-zero waste production process.
Unlike bamboo, the grass’ roots don’t invasively spread, it's easy to mechanically harvest, and farmers are already interested. With North Carolina as its testing ground, Plantd plans to partner with local farmers looking to switch their tobacco crop to a more economic and environmentally sustainable one.
After perfecting the panel, the company hopes to expand into other product categories like sub-flooring and two-by-fours. For now, the 100% electric “factory of the future” is in development.