Grow a Tree from Human Remains With This Internet Connected Urn
The ultimate IOT urn for the environmentally conscious city dweller.
Image: Bios Incube
Burial practices wreak havoc on the environment. Embalming fluid contains formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Metal caskets don't biodegrade, and concrete vaults require natural resources for manufacturing. Then there are those those pesky herbicides used to keep cemetery lawns looking nice. Suffice it to say, we're in need of better options.
Fortunately, green burials are on the rise. One option is planting a tree using your loved ones' remains. But what if you don't have access to garden space? And what if you're terrified of killing the plant, a connection or a tribute to your loved one?
Bios Urn, which is also known for its biodegradable urn, has created what co-founder and CEO Roger Moliné calls "a smart flower pot" to house your loved one's ashes. The Bios Incube, which plants a small tree, is made from recycled material, and designed with the urban dweller in mind.
To some people, this may sound creepy. But Moliné sees it as a solution. "Instead of leaving the remains of your loved ones in a cemetery, where maybe you'll go once or twice a year, you have the remains in your house—the place where you live, or where that person lived for his or her entire life," said Moliné.
The Incube, which features a sleek, minimalist design, and sits 30" high, is an internet-connected smart device. A sensor on top of the soil tracks light exposure, temperature, humidity, electrical conductivity, and moisture. It figures out how much water the plant needs, and waters itself. All of that data is transferred to your phone via the Bios Urn app.
"That's one of the beautiful things," said Elizabeth Rodriguez, 66, who pre-ordered the Incube for her recently deceased mother. "We travel and we can leave it there. You don't have to water it everyday. I thought it was just ideal."
When Rodriguez' father passed away ten years ago, it was a strenuous ordeal, she said. With family in Puerto Rico, Rodriguez, who lives in California, had to arrange for the remains to be sent abroad. She wanted to go a different route with her mother, and the Incube made sense because she doesn't have access to gardening space.
"It's not like I can go out in the backyard and plant it there, but I do have a patio front," she said. "But every time I go out of my house, I'll see it there."
At a price tag of $450, the Incube is more economical than traditional burial methods. Moliné and his brother Gerard, the other co-founder, hope that the more people use the product, the better the technology gets.
"If you're living in Oakland, we'll have data that shows over 300 Incubes working there," he said. "We can tell you the best type of tree, not just because the ecosystem, but because we're already using Incubes to grow those plants and they're working well there."
Rodriguez and her wife say that when they pass, they don't want to go the traditional route.
"We don't know where our daughter will be at that point and if she will be able to actually plant a tree [outside]," she said. "So she'll have to do an Incube."
Subscribe to Science Solved It , Motherboard's new show about the greatest mysteries that were solved by science.