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Molecular farming: targeting the science behind botanical active ingredients

“We want our technology to control what the plant is producing, not simply the yield. We want researchers and producers to be able to act on any metabolic process occurring in the plants,” says Paul-Hector Oliver, founder, and chief executive officer at Orius.

Orius is a French agtech company that offers turnkey solutions for the local and sustainable production of plant-based raw materials. These solutions are particularly well suited for the production of plants for specific active compounds, as is needed in the pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, and cosmetic industries.

Paul-Hector Oliver (Orius) and Laurie Dewandel (Capsum) 

It was recently announced that Orius would be partnering with Capsum, a contract manufacturer looking to produce its own botanical ingredients to complete its offer, already based on innovative technologies and sustainable manufacturing. Like Orius, Capsum is a French company, but it also has a team in the United States. The companies will work together to build a cutting-edge precision indoor farm on Capsum’s manufacturing site in Texas, where Orius’ vertical farming technology will provide full control from seed to harvest.

“Our R&D unit in France is a vertical farming laboratory to grow plants and develop cosmetic ingredients. Our farm in Austin, Texas will be bigger to produce our active ingredients on a larger scale, with 400 square meters devoted to plant production and 250 square meters for technical units, storage, extraction, etc.,” says Laurie Dewandel, communication manager at Capsum.

Completely sealed, plug-and-play systems
As Paul explains, Orius’ patented technology is called Biomebox, and it comes with full environmental control, various potential configurations, easy scaling, and advanced sensors and metrics. Through its comprehensive and user-friendly web interface, growers can adjust the environmental conditions with temperatures ranging from 5 to 40 °C, vapor pressure deficits of 50 to 1500 Pa, carbon dioxide levels of 400 to 5000 ppm, and variable lighting. Modules can be installed with either fixed spectrum or fully controllable LED lighting with up to eight channels. Nutrient dosing and irrigation can also be finetuned.

“The units are able to control the homogeneity of all conditions of the plants. In large vertical farms, there are often differences between the top and bottom, making it hard to apply the right parameters to the whole crop,” explains Laurie.

“We build technology for our clients, and they need predictability. They want to know what is going to happen inside the plants. What happens to the molecule production at certain temperature differences? If we give them that, growers have a way to steer the plant and trigger the production of key molecules,” explains Paul-Hector.

Sunflower and borage the first plants of interest
According to Laurie, Capsum will first focus on the production of sunflower and borage microgreens. Although roots are not used during extraction, all other parts of the plants will be used. At the research facility in France, Orius is working on flowers, roots, rhizomes, and bark but also mushroom fruiting bodies. Meanwhile, Capsum is developing innovative and unique ingredients, tested clinically, from the plant material grown indoor.

“The cosmetic industry faces challenges in sourcing sustainable active ingredients, often shipping ingredients in from other countries. There can be different countries for the plant production, processing, product manufacturing, and then global distribution. Our goal is to grow and extract our ingredients on-site, then distribute the products widely. This reduces the environmental footprint of our production,” says Laurie.

For more information:
Laurie Dewandel, Communication Manager


Paul-Hector Oliver, CEO, and Co-Founder