Israel’s Better Air startup offers BioZone, a system that boosts a building’s immunity to bacteria, mold and dust mites.
By Rivka Borochov
There has been a global change in understanding how to combat bacteria. Instead of killing them outright with antibacterials and antibiotics, more and more people are taking probiotics (“good” bacteria) to help their gut build immunity to “bad” bacteria and promote better health and digestion.
A new Israeli company called Better Air has taken the idea of building immunity with probiotics and applied it to indoor air filtration.
Better Air’s BioZone system is loaded with millions of safe, food-grade probiotics suspended in a gas. It disperses the probiotics into deep and dark cavities, and surfaces where bad bacteria, mold and dust mites are lurking and multiplying.
Based on the simple biology of bacteria reproduction — only so many bacteria can occupy a given space at any time — BioZone system leaves little room for the bad bacteria to grow, letting the good ones flourish and take over. The result is less sickness, infection, allergies –– and even less smelly armpits.
“There is a paradigm shift going on here,” says Yuli Horesh, co-founder of the company. The former ad man and initiator of the Wisconsin Plan (welfare to work) in Israel says he felt compelled to enter the business of clean-tech and this company specifically.
“I like to go where there is something that can be changed. Besides the responsibility that I have to my five children, I want to make this world a better place,” he says.
“I believe that we deserve to choose the air we breathe. Buildings are problematic and no one really knows the extent of it. I know people who have been sick because of pathogens [they breathed indoors].”
Promote the good, force out the bad
The “sick building syndrome” is a controversial but a well-documented phenomenon in the Western world. It can lead to non-specific symptoms such as eye discomfort, itching and throat pain. In some cases the systems disappear when the person leaves the contaminated area. In others the symptoms persevere and become chronic.
This is all because mechanical systems that force filtered air from the outside are not encouraging the right kinds of good bacteria to grow in the air we breathe.
“Humans have been killing bacteria for so many years and it’s just making the bacteria stronger and stronger. We need to stop killing bacteria with anti-bacterials and antibiotics. All this notion of ‘anti’ has to stop,” Horesh says.
Considering that any place will always have good and bad bacteria present, he adds, why not dictate and control which will be dominant?
Horesh lost a grandmother to a rare hospital-borne bacterium, further spurring him to develop a solution that can work to improve the indoor air quality of hospitals. Since co-founding the company in 2011, after four years of research, Horesh has won contracts to install BioZone in hospitals in Israel. Another is installed in Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Center shopping mall, and the next will go into a Hilton in the UK.
In parallel to developing custom-tailored solutions for hospitals, malls and big office buildings, Better Air is also working on a plug-and-play system, fitted beside the air intake of home furnaces and air conditioners to reduce the number of allergy-inducing dust mites and odor-producing bacteria. The product is expected to be on retailers’ shelves at the end of this year, at a cost of a few hundred dollars per unit.
The company could also develop mobile solutions for buses and airplanes, or any other controlled environment where the indoor air is dependent on ventilation.
Better Air currently employs 14 people in Tel Aviv. Co-founded by Horesh, Shai Kuttner and Mike Hoffman with a private investment of about $2 million, the company now seeks a $3 million to $5 million investment to further its short-term goals.