Start-up Sprout makes environmental point with plantable pencil

BOSTON — An idea that began in a mechanical design class at MIT has turned into a $2 million business with offices in Framingham and Gardner, all centered around a green twist on the lowly pencil, according to the Boston Business Journal.

Mario Bollini, now the 28-year-old chief technology officer at a Cambridge-based off-road wheelchair startup called Grit, was a graduate student at MIT in 2012 when he and a team of six others were assigned to come up with a sustainable commercial product. They came up with a pencil (made of sustainable wood, with organic clay and graphite at its core) featuring a dissolvable capsule of seeds in place of an eraser. The pencil could be planted to grow flowers, herbs and vegetables.

The pencil acquired the name Sprout, and along with two other team members — Ben Peters and Lauren Herney — Bollini founded a product development company called democratech and started a Kickstarter campaign to launch Sprout as its first product. That campaign caught the attention of Michael Stausholm, a Denmark resident who happened to be working with various companies on the theme of sustainability, in early 2013.

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