10 to Watch Winner 2022 – Origen Air – Douglas Magazine
Sector: Clean Tech, Science, Product
Year Launched: 2019
Founders: (left to right) Susan Blanchet and Andrew Crawford
Unique Selling Proposition: A high impact, small footprint, plant-powered commercial quality air purification unit.
Strategy: Improving living and working conditions using genetically enhanced plants that are capable of removing microscopic airborne contaminants from the air.
United in their belief that clearer air can substantially improve lives, Susan Blanchet and Andrew Crawford are making air great again.
It’s an unlikely pursuit for a Vancouver Island-based company where, Blanchet says, they are “preaching to the choir.” But ocean air only travels so far, and, globally, air pollution both inside and outside is a big problem. That big problem is Origen Air’s big market, and why the company has filed patents in the U.S., Canada, Singapore, Indonesia, China and India.
“Southeast Asia, that’s where the air quality is the worst,” says Blanchet who has been on Canada Asia/Pacific trade missions to Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand. “That’s where we want to go.”
Crawford, “resident plant guru” and former owner of a living wall company, was surprised when a deep dive into the scientific benefits revealed that, in fact, “plants do not remove toxins from our air” (Source: NASA).
Meanwhile, the planets were aligning in his favour: he tuned into CBC and caught Dr. Stuart Strand discussing a genetically enhanced plant — pathos ivy, aka “the bachelor plant” for its easiness to maintain — that does in fact remove man-made toxins from the air.
Who better to help him secure the intellectual property rights from the University of Washington than Blanchet, who, at the time, worked as a civil litigator.
Blanchet’s interest was piqued. After seeing her late father develop an autoimmune disease while in a care home with very low air circulation, she suspected a link.
“I knew law wasn’t the answer,” says Blanchet. “Because doing anything health related in law is very difficult. You need to prove a direct causal link.”
After launching Origen Air with a focus on commercial buildings — the Sentinel unit is designed for large-scale commercial operations — the pair realized the untapped potential of the domestic consumer market, and created the smaller Pinnacle unit to add to their subscription-based service that includes maintenance and air quality reporting.
“By deploying these inside, you’re actually augmenting the supply of fresh oxygen indoors,” says Crawford. “Which makes humans perform better.”