Featured on Fundsup: Nurtio Technologies – On a mission to reinvent the indoor gardening industry

Nurtio team from the left: Marco Zijlstra (Chief Product Officer), Pasquale Conte, Dennis Geldhof (both Software Engineers) and Iryna Pakhomova (Chief Executive Officer)

Every month we feature a new startup at Fundsup that forces a radical breakthrough. This time we chat with Iryna Pakhomova, CEO and Marco Zijlstra, CPO of Nurtio Technologies

Iryna and Marco, what exactly are you doing? 

In Nurtio Technologies we are challenging the usual approach to gardening – to be more specific, the corporate segment of it. Our main product, the Smart Virtual Gardener, employs cutting edge technology to make plant maintenance at the offices easier and more affordable for the professional landscaping companies.

With the custom-made sensors, we are collecting the data on the vital parameters of the potted plants and leveraging this data for in-depth maintenance insights. This helps our customers remove all the guesswork from the process, keeps plants from dying, and, as a consequence, makes the indoor premises spaces greener and healthier.

“By leveraging the data, we basically remove all the guesswork from the plant maintenance, and in a way “translate” from the plant language to the human one.”

Where do you see its main application?

Pretty much anywhere where the plants are – which is… everywhere. 

We have chosen to start with the professional indoor plant maintenance – to help the companies that provide the plant care services at the offices and public settings.

There are several reasons for that. First of all, this is where Iryna’s background is. She has been running her own interiorscaping company for over 10 years and knows well how the operations of such companies can be improved when using the latest technology. But most importantly, this is the segment where we as Nurtio have found the strongest traction. Ever since the start of the company we have been receiving a lot of inbound inquiries from all over the world. To quote some of them, “It’s been well over 30 years since the last innovation came to this industry – so great it’s finally happening” and “In a world where data is the most expensive commodity, it’s exciting to see advancement within the interior landscaping sector.” Hearing all this convinced us that we are definitely on the right path.

We do have inquiries from the “neighbouring” markets too. For example, we have talked to the companies that could use our sensor-based and AI-powered technology for outdoor landscaping – be it the private sector, or the municipal one. Also, there is a strong demand coming from the consumer segment: many people would love to be technically assisted when growing their plants at homes, especially now when almost everybody is working from home.

But we also know how important it is for a startup company to focus. Our resources are always limited, so instead of covering everything and everyone, we chose to take one step at a time. It’s so much better to have an amazing product for one market (and only then consider the new ones), rather than to have a bunch of mediocre products for all sorts of target groups.

What is the impact of your business?

First of all, we do save the plants. By leveraging the data, we basically remove all the guesswork from the plant maintenance, and in a way “translate” from the plant language to the human one.

Also, speaking of the professional gardening industry, we save a lot of clean water (by preventing excess irrigation) and unnecessary travel (by optimizing the frequency of visits to the service site).

But most importantly, what we do at the end of the day, is we make the plants more affordable for the end-users. This means that with our technology people can finally get more plants and improve their indoor climate without worrying about how to maintain all this green beauty. This also perfectly fits into the latest trend in the interior and architecture design: a focus on the air quality and the wellbeing of the premise users.

Where do you stand right now?

At the moment we are starting several pilot projects with the launching customers across Europe. Every day we are getting closer and closer to the envisioned version of our product, but we would certainly like to make sure that the users find it convenient and easy-to-use before we ramp up production. 

The same applies to the software that comes along. In good product-driven companies, you’re continuously adding value for your customers. However, the main task for us these days is to finish and release the software that will be ultimately reliable and ready for scaling.

When are you planning to go to the market?

If everything goes well, we are planning to start the first commercial roll-outs later this year. Our first focus will be on the high-cost plant installations like large expensive trees, indoor flower beds, and living green walls. The added value from monitoring such objects is naturally the highest. We are still deciding on the geographical focus, but given how many companies volunteered to become our launching customers, we are actually at liberty to choose. Most likely, our first commercial rollouts will be in the United Kingdom and Nordic countries.

Once our first product is launched, we will continue developing our technology to release the second one – Nurtio for the mass market. In this case, we will be aiming to connect and monitor all the plants at a certain location, from the largest to the smallest. This will allow us to offer our users an unprecedented level of automation with their whole logistics perfectly optimized by algorithms taking into consideration every plant that is out there and needs to be visited at some point.

“We do believe in the benefits of the greener world and would love to see the like-minded people embark with us on this amazing journey.”

Who has invested in you and what kind of investors are you looking for?

We are incredibly grateful to the Climate-KIC accelerator whose grants helped us do the proper market validation, and also to the Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland (RvO) who funded our proof on concept and prototyping stage. We are developing a rather complex technology with a fair share of technical risks, but now we are proud to have tackled most of them – mostly because we have been properly funded.

The next stage is scaling – both in terms of production and in terms of sales. Even with the traction that many young startups can only dream of, we foresee a lot of work. Brexit alone doesn’t make this easier. So, speaking of the investors we would like to have, we would say the preference will go to the ones that have experience in the rapid internationalization of complex technologies and/or can offer a relevant network in this department.

What would be the ideal investor match?

As a startup, we are a very fast-moving and agile company. We make decisions fast. If we can`t make fast decisions, then we are setting up fast experiments, and the outcome drives the decisions. We respect each other no matter the amount of experience and the formal title, and we try to support each other in our everyday tasks. And with our customers and partners, we are building the long and sustainable relationships that we hope will result in partnerships for decades. So, ideally, for us, we would like to find the investment partner, or partners, who would share these values and this work ethic.

Last but not least, what we are doing is not just a job for us. We all genuinely love plants and would like to help others overcome the obstacles when it comes to having many plants at their homes and offices. We do believe in the benefits of the greener world and would love to see the like-minded people embark with us on this amazing journey.

Best of luck with everything!

Thanks, check out our pitch deck in the Fundsup app: https://api.fundsup.co/go/SzXcxAGsS