Growing up, Barabara Belvisi imagined the kind of future for herself that was pretty typical for any kid. That is, any kid who dreamed of space exploration and settling on other planets across the galaxy.
"When I was younger, like many of us, I was a super nerdy and I was dreaming of becoming a multi-planetary species and living on other planets," she said.
Unlike most who leave their childhood dreams behind, Belvisi has channeled this passion into her startup, Interstellar Labs. Launched almost 3 years ago, the company aims to leverage advanced research to build self-sustaining systems for living on other planets – and on Earth. The core belief is that the technology to allow humans to live on other planets can be harnessed to create more sustainable systems at home as a bulwark against climate change.
Like any lofty vision, the road to turning it into a concrete business has not necessarily been easy or straightforward. But Belvisi is confident the company has identified a concrete business that will allow Interstellar to take its first steps toward that longer-term goal.
That business focuses on the BioPod, a self-contained unit that can be optimized to grow a wide range of plants by adjusting the climate and atmospheric conditions. The BioPod can be used for hard-to-grow crops such as vanilla, vetiver, or patchouli by minimizing water consumption and energy use while boosting yield. The pod uses AI to monitor and maintain optimal growing conditions. The first BioPods are now being built in a Brittany factory and then will be shipped to Interstellar's HQ in Ivry Sur Seine, just southeast of Paris, for final assembly.
This strategy and initial progress – which includes contracts with NASA and the French space agency CNES – helped Interstellar recently raise a Seed round of $5 million that included investors such as Urania Ventures, Auxxo, 7percent Ventures, Seldor Capital, E2MC, Kima Ventures, and BPI. Until now, the company had mainly been funded by Belvisi and angel investors Bruno Maisonnier, Charles-Edouard Bouee, Xavier Gury, Adeo Ressi, and Thibaud Elziere.
Belivisi joined me and co-host Ethan Pierse recently on The French News Podcast to talk about her startup journey following the funding announcement.