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TAXA Biotechnologies

TAXA: Introducing Orbella the Fragrant Moss

on Jul 31 2017
XX Founding Partner

Five years ago, Antony set out on a mission to genetically engineer plants and make them glow. Undoubtedly, this was an ambitious project and he was determined to share the beautiful side of GMOs, which normally get bad rep as something concocted by evil conglomerates’ scientists trying to destroy the world.

The project proved ambitious and there were obstacles that hindered TAXA from delivering the promised plants on time. Antony’s new product Orbella's scent doesn’t fill up an entire room but it does smell pretty darn good. 

As my coworker described Orbella, “Woah! It has that old, distinguished man’s cologne scent to it.” 

Even when unexpected contaminants delayed his latest project and he was forced to cut down on his employees, Antony stayed on for the rough ride and created Orbella, an all-natural fragrant moss that also cleans air. 

Antony’s mission is to replace air fresheners that use non-renewable sources and embrace biotech that creates sustainable alternatives for everyone. He’s no doubt in this GMO biotech journey for the long ride, until plants can glow, smell and make this planet a healthier and a (literally) brighter place. 

You can buy an Orbella and get 15% off with this discount code: LAUNCHSPECIAL You're also invited to TAXA's Orbella launch party this Thursday, August 3rd. RSVP here if you'd like to meet Antony in person and smell the Orbella! 

Learn more about Orbella and watch him unbox it in the video below. And don't forget to comment and like if you want to see more investor updates like this! 

For the full interview with Antony, please read below: 

Tell us about your new project, Orbella.

Our fragrant moss, Orbella, is a moss that has been genetically engineered to have a nice fragrance. Unlike flowers, which expire, or unlike traditional chemical air fresheners which puts a lot of solvents into the air, our moss is just a nice living plant that lives a long time as well, as putting fragrance into the air, it does what all plants do, which is cleaning the air. And it builds on what we want to do at the company. Our mission here at TAXA is to create a circular economy, which is an economy in which we don’t use non-renewable sources, like petroleum or coal, to produce the things we’re using. We believe that by embracing biotechnology, we can create living, sustainable alternatives. We create a cleaner and more sustainable future for everyone. And Orbella is the first product we’re going to ship in that. 

Can you tell us what’s happened since your Wefunder fundraise last year?

Since the campaign closed, we’ve been working to finish and bring Orbella to market. Two big tasks we had to do were 1) Product development to figure out what the product was going to be like. It’s not enough to engineer the moss. We need to figure out how the moss is going to be in someone’s home, the watering experience, the caring experience, visual design, and the packaging design. 2) Production scale up, so we can produce large volumes at an affordable price. That turned out to be harder than we’d thought. We had contamination issues at the last minute and that was pretty stressful. But we are shipping in two weeks and I’m really excited about that.

Can you show us the Orbella? 

Sure, we’re calling this Orbella and it’ll be in a glass orb. It’ll be shipped on white stones and you’ll have a layer of moss. You can personalize if you’d like. We’ll hopefully collaborate with more product designers to put into other usage! 

The unique thing about how we designed the packaging is that everything is made from bio-produced or compostable materials. The cardboard is sustainably produced and we use compostable ink. Inside when you open the package up, you’ll get the moss, nutrient gel underneath it, the orb, and the material that protects the orb, which is grown packaging material. We take waste cellulosic material, like wood chips, sawdust, coffee grounds, leaf mulch, and our partners in the East Coast add this mycelium mushroom based fungus to it. And you get this lovely, soft packaging for our glass. And when you’re done with it, you can put it in your garden. There’s really zero waste around this. You also get an all natural cotton bag holding the rocks. 

We really wanted to reflect the ideas that we’re doing behind the project and bring something new. 

W: How much is Orbella going to sell for? And when? 

We’re launching this on our website at $80 and we’re ready to ship! It’s going to take some time to ramp up production. We’re making about 100 units per week and we have enough for the first 1,000 people. We’ll launch on July 13th. 

Any message for Wefunder Investors?

Thanks for investing in us. This moss would never be coming to the market if we hadn’t done the Wefunder campaign. It means a lot. People have sent a lot of supportive messages even when we hit different roadblocks over the years. We’re excited to get this to as many people’s hands. If any investors would share on Facebook, Twitter, etc., of course we’re going to appreciate that. 

What’s next after this?

We have 3 flavors but they’re not strong enough just yet. Top priority is increasing the strength of the fragrance so we can aromatize a bigger space.

I’m most excited about getting more into the air cleaning features. All plants clean and take things out of the air but we’ve identified a few genes that can clean air more effectively, and particularly to get rid of the benzenes, chloroforms and formaldehydes, which come from day to day urban life. We’ll hopefully go further with that. 

What’s been the biggest challenge at TAXA over the last year?

Keep going against setbacks. When you’re working in biotech, we’d hope to ship in September-November, but then we’d miss the deadline because we couldn’t scale up our manufacturing quickly. And then it was really rough in March; we were three weeks away from launch then found this contaminant in the moss strain, which became an regulated article and therefore we couldn’t ship it. That caused us a lot of financial strain because we’d prepared the marketing to happen in March. We had to let go of some people and that was really tough. 

How can your investors help? 

First is getting the word out. Sharing and commenting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. We’re also interested in retail distribution so introduction to anyone in that space would be really valuable too.