Purdue plant science startup sees growing interest during COVID-19 pandemic

A Purdue University-affiliated startup that designs, distributes, and supports direct-to-consumer, in-home greenhouses is seeing increased interest for its innovation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University-affiliated startup that designs, distributes, and supports direct-to-consumer, in-home greenhouses is seeing increased interest for its innovation during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Heliponix LLC, founded by Purdue Polytechnic Institute graduates Ivan Ball and Scott Massey, sells the GroPod Smart Garden Appliance. It is a small in-home greenhouse to grow daily servings of Pure Produce from subscription Seed Pods. The dishwasher-sized device is priced at $1,995, fits under a kitchen counter, and grows produce year-round, providing consumers with lettuce and other greens that are fresh and pesticide-free.

Heliponix, a Purdue University-affiliated startup that designs, distributes, and supports in-home greenhouses, is seeing increased interest for its innovation during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Image provided)
"We have experienced an explosion of inquiries in light of the pandemic from consumers who want control of their own produce supply," Massey said. "Consumers want food that tastes better, while being healthier for them from a trusted source to maintain a strong immune system."

Heliponix, a startup from Purdue Foundry's Startup Class of 2017, presented at the Consumer Electronics Show this year in Las Vegas.

"We are now deep into the fourth industrial revolution with blockchain, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and Internet of Things connecting everything in our homes to our phones," Ball said. "Development of these systems will provide the architecture we need to begin connecting biological organisms to our digital world."

Computer vision and machine learning are the tools needed to understand a plant's response to a given environment and enable Heliponix's automated device to adapt the environment to a plant's preference in real time.

Massey and Ball met while working as student research engineers on a NASA-funded project at Purdue, which contributed to the efforts to grow food on the International Space Station under Cary Mitchell, a professor of horticulture. They received their first preseed and seed investments from the Purdue Ag-celerator, which was founded jointly by Purdue Ventures, Purdue Foundry and Purdue's College of Agriculture in 2015.

About Purdue Foundry
The Purdue Foundry is an entrepreneurship and commercialization hub whose professionals help Purdue innovators create startups. The Purdue Foundry is housed in the Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration in Discovery Park District, adjacent to the Purdue campus. The Purdue Foundry is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2019 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Place from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. For more information about involvement and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at foundry@prf.org.

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