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Albert’s “Pluggbox”

An invention for good root growth 

Albert Eriksson is an inventor who got to the root of the problem. The result is Pluggbox POPUP, a propagator for all types of seeds with many unique functions.

During the last 2 years approxiamately 50,000 have been sold and the inventor is convinced that it could be a lot lot more.

There is a huge need for a product like Pluggbox POPUP. Consequently, but without wanting to boast, I am convinced that we could sell millions of these boxes.

Albert Eriksson has always been interested in getting his hands dirty.

“It goes back to my childhood. When I was 10-12 years old I voluntarily went direct from school to weed mum’s vegetable patch in Hedalen Ärtemark, Dalsland, he says.

Nowadays, 80 year old Albert Eriksson, lives in Kungälv, but is still driven by his fascination with all that grows and moves in the earth. This interest was so strong that as a 72 year old, when most people prefer a peaceful pensioner’s life, he decided to create the ultimate propagator, an idea he  nurtured for over 20 years.

When I knew how it should work I never hesitated to develop and pursue the project, says Albert Eriksson. However, I did think it would go faster to get the product out than it did in reality, he adds.

Pots for perfect roots

It is well known that there is a wealth of different propagators to get the plants from sowing seeds to market. Generally these propagators are ok. One problem that all of them share is that the roots  get damaged when you move the plants. This was the starting point for Albert Eriksson’s development work on the Pluggbox POPUP.

My idea was a propagator with conical pots, which made it easier to get out the plants when they were ready and without damaging the roots, he tells. It is clear that the idea works when you fold out the support legs slightly and simultaneously press down the propagator. This cause the plants to pop out automatically and these can then be replanted.

Plants with complete and undamaged roots have not only better root systems, but are of higher quality and easier to handle. This is true for all types of seeds.

This type of seedling also has no reason to give up when is planted in cold earth or larger pots, points out Albert Eriksson and adds. When we showed how the plants popped out automatically at the gardening exhibition in Birmingham, England there was a buzz in the audience. And it is not often that you experience that amongst gardening fanatics.


Multi-function advantages

The seedling was of course the catalyst behind Albert Eriksson´s invention. However, the Pluggbox POPUP consisting three parts, a trough, sowing tray and a lid, has many other ingenious advantages including the following:

When you have filled the tray of sowing compartments with earth and placed it in the trough, all you have to do is turnover the lid with the spikes on and press it in the earth. Hey presto, 49 perfectly centered sowing holes.

The gap of a couple of centimetres between the trough and tray means you can fill the former with water. Consequently the roots can suck up the water from underneath and the right humidity is established. The water also cools the roots on warm days when water evaporates.

The lid can be either sealed tight or by turning it 90° in relation to the tray the construction can be ventilated from two sides.

Finally, we must not forget the construction’s practical advantages, namely that it is stackable and takes up less space.

I got the tip from a friend who works professionally with vegetable growing. He said that something was needed so that you did not have to do the sowing holes by hand. And even though I was not keen on the idea I integrated the function into the lid.

That addition turned out to be a stroke of luck.

It is one of the best things I have done. As a result of this feature the Pluggbox POPUP became stackable, light and easy to transport as well as taking up little space, explains Albert Eriksson.


Industry it was

Problems with dyslexia, good drawing abilities and a generally creative nature meant that Albert Eriksson was drawn in an artistic direction in his younger years. After evening courses at the art school in Gothenburg he ended up at Gothenburg’s technical institute, GTI. So instead of art, which he considered an unreliable way of earning a living, it was industry he decided for. He worked amongst other things as a constructor for Tudor in Nol and SAAB in Gothenburg.

Consequently Albert Eriksson has spent most of his life drawing and developing products.

The Pluggbox, which incidentally he did all the technical drawings as well as drawings for tool production  is not the first product that Albert Eriksson has had success with as an inventor and businessman.

A friend and I developed an alarm for testing AC and DC inverters. We sold 100,000 of them at the end of the 40s beginning of the 50s.

No novice

So Albert Eriksson was no novice in this field when he decided to get down to developing the Pluggbox POPUP.

I think it was a Japanese who once said that an idea is 1, development is 10 and sales and marketing is 100, he says and adds. I had many other ideas on the go when I started with the Pluggbox. Amongst other things one for IKEA, but I had to drop this one otherwise I would never have finished the Pluggbox.

Too many propagator

Around 1998-99 Albert Eriksson felt ready to take his idea further. He turned to Almi and received a grant to apply for a patent. After that he applied for a conditional loan from the foundation for innovation SIC in order to further refine the invention.

I filled in the loan application and attachments as best I could and sent them in, but got the answer that I had not been approved a loan as there were already so many of this kind of product on the market.

But Albert Eriksson did not give in. In a new attempt he came into contact with Robert Nilsen, then an innovation advisor in Gothenburg but now in charge of the school of inventors, ideúm®, in Lidköping. This resulted in him receiving a conditional loan to continue the development of his idea.

And a good job too because it resulted in the Pluggbox POPUP, through persistent work and different retailers like Bröderna Nelson. In just two years over 50,000 have been sold in many countries such as Sweden, Norway, England, North America, Germany, France and Italy with more to follow.

SIC’s first refusal was not Albert Eriksson’s only setback. For many years I also tried to get a SKAPA grant. A few years ago I called a member from the jury committee at SKAPA here in Gothenburg and enquired about my invention. But when he realised that it was a propagator his interest cooled dramatically.

I was very dejected and did not apply for any more grants after that. The crucial point is not what the product is, but whether it is considerably better than what has been done before or not. Otherwise there would be for example no point in producing new cars either, points out Albert Eriksson, calmly but cuttingly.

Might sell millions

Anyway, one thing is for sure, the Pluggbox POPUP makes it possible to sow and grow virtually any type of flower or vegetable seed and it is on its way to big commercial success. 50,000 units spread over 19,000 last year and 32,000 this year spells this out clearly.

This is not due to my own work. I have many individuals to thanks who have dedicated a lot of time to getting it out on the market, he says.

Albert Eriksson is also convinced that Pluggbox POPUP can become a multi-million seller, but this will require more development work, which Albert Eriksson continually works on. Also needed will be better marketing of the product stressing everything that can be grown in it and all its fantastic functions which can fulfil the needs of both the casual and the professional gardeners.

There is a huge need for a product like Pluggbox POPUP. Without boasting, I am convinced that we can sell millions of these propagators. But this demands that it is fully developed and sold in the correct market channels for the right price, points out Albert Eriksson, whilst also revealing he has a problem.

I will turn 80 in the autumn. And despite a good heart I get heart flutters now and again. But what I think when my health is not so good is not, it is soon lights out for the old man, but that I have to finish this Pluggbox.

One thing is undeniable, Albert Eriksson is a true innovator and businessman dedicated to his cause.


This article is picked from the magazine Inventor & design engineer Edition 3/07 (Swedish magazine)


Translation to English by www.waywithwords.se


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