Engineering grad creates nanotech product to help green thumbs

University of Waterloo engineering grad Sonya Wach has applied new nanotechnology to help people take better care of their plants.

Nanotechnology used to feed plants in a more controlled way

Sonya Wach created LeafGenius during her fourth-year nanotechnology course at the University of Waterloo. The product helps release water and nutrients to food in a more controlled way than typical watering. (Getty Images/Cultura RM)

Overwatering is a common reason many people give when explaining the dead plant on their windowsill.

A new product from a University of Waterloo graduate may help those with brown thumbs keep their plants green and alive.

Sonya Wach created LeafGenius as part of her fourth-year nanotechnology course. While normally people think of the tech sector when they hear of nanotechnology, Wach's product is a biodegradable additive that goes into soil.

"The purpose is that when you water this component that retains this water, [it] will swell and hold the water and slowly feed the plant with water over time and then, when you water again, it will re-swell and start the process again," Wach said.

"You don't need to water as frequently as you normally would."

Nanopores and nutrients

LeafGenius is made of nanoparticles you cannot see with the naked eye. In those nanoparticles are nanopores, which carry food to the plant as well. It is better for the plants than the odd dump of nutrients some people do when they put plant food in a watering can.

"It's a more controlled release. It will be slower and better," she said.

Wach has tested the product herself, even though she admits to not having the time or skill to garden before this project.

"A lot of individuals are not skilled with growing plants, and I wasn't either," she said.

But LeafGenius makes it easier for people to keep both indoor and outdoor plants alive.

Larger applications

Wach is still doing some beta testing, but she is hoping to have the product for sale on her website later this summer.

LeafGenius is part of Velocity, the university's entrepreneurship program and the startup incubator. She was awarded $60,000 from AC JumpStart.

Wach said there is also the potential for her product to have larger, agricultural applications and she is also researching how it could be used to deliver pesticides in a more targeted way.


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