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BizVoice/Indiana Chamber – September/October 2017

And because Massey, a 2017 Purdue University

mechanical engineering technology graduate, has always

appreciated good design … and recently read a

biography of Steve Jobs … and previously interned with

an oil and gas company … and became more aware of

food insecurity and water shortages while in Texas. …

Well, because of these influences and more, you likely

will grow that produce in a sleek, high-efficiency

appliance with an affordable price tag.

Today, Massey’s varied experiences have merged

into a future, but they weren’t always so aligned. In

fact, having a mind that’s as committed to the arts and

humanities as it is to engineering once created a challenge.

“I went to Purdue unsure of what career to pursue,”

the Evansville native says. He felt like a round peg in a

square hole.

Changing course

But two experiences in food production helped him

find his way: First, he worked a campus job for a NASA-

funded project that used cutting-edge technology to try

and create life support systems for future space colonies

to grow their own food. He wanted to see that technology

in action so he lined up that internship in Hawaii.

After that fell through, he found himself instead in

El Paso, Texas, across the border from Juarez, Mexico.

Massey says he noticed how much federal HUD (United

States Department of Housing and Urban Development)

money was spent to replace apartment refrigerators in

areas defined as food deserts – and how they and the

stoves that sat beside them weren’t getting used. At the

same time, he became aware of how much produce is

farmed in that region, and how susceptible that area –

and therefore that produce – is to drought.

Further research into water and agriculture yielded

more troubling insights. He learned that Yuma,

Arizona, and Salinas, California, account for much of

our nation’s produce production, and the availability of

that produce could be depleted from a severe drought

or other environmental catastrophes in these areas. He

also learned that agriculture accounts for about 80% of

America’s water consumption and contributes mightily

to the 70% of contamination that comes from runoff.

Finally, Americans throw away 40% of the produce we

buy (and which has been transported across the

country), because it spoils before we can eat it.

With these factors swirling in his mind, Massey became

aware of the impact a single catastrophe could have on a

great chunk of humanity. Soon, he found himself blending

his humanitarian instincts, design sensibilities, recent

immersion in Apple history, engineering acumen and

more in an effort to find a path to affordable, nutritious

food that didn’t rely so heavily on fragile water supplies.

Developing a solution

His answer? Gropod.

The product of Hydro Grow LLC, the company

Massey and collaborators launched earlier this year, Gropod

might sound like something from a science fiction novel,

but it’s very real and very close to being market ready.

With Gropod, you could harvest an array of green edibles

in a refrigerator-like appliance in your own kitchen.

The plants would grow on a column inside the appliance,

each sprouting from its own “pod,” allowing you to have

various plants at various stages of growth at all times.

Here’s how Massey says it would work when the

company reaches full-scale production: Say you get up

in the morning and decide you would like to have a

mini bell pepper and basil omelet. You open the door

to the Gropod, pluck a few basil leaves from a plant

growing there, allow the column to rotate to find the

pepper plant and pick one. If you deplete a plant, you

remove the pod and the unit automatically orders another

from your supplier, with automatic billing and shipping.

The plants you order will already be germinating,

so they’ll be ready to sprout when they get to your house.

Soon, they’ll produce food, just steps from your dinner

table. “It will be truly locally grown,” Massey says.

Getting the Gropod from pencil sketch to

prototype has been a collaborative process. A quick

glance at the Hydro Grow web site underscores the fact

that Massey’s core teammates – James Carlson, Ivan

Ball and John Kissel – are all current Purdue students

with skills in, respectively, software design, electrical

and computer engineering, and business management.

Hydro Grow already has received attention and

support from beyond this team. Interest and the firm’s

budget have been helped by victories in business plan

competitions, including a $20,000 win in Purdue’s Burton

D. Morgan Business Plan Competition and $5,000 from


Keira Amstutz

is president and CEO of

Indiana Humanities. This is

the fourth of a series in



focusing on

individual Hoosiers who

are making a difference by

merging STEM and the

humanities. Learn more at


Taking Root and Growing

‘Lost’ Entrepreneur Finds His Mission

Instead of a planned summer internship in Hawaii, Scott Massey ended up building Section

8 housing in Texas – and thanks to that fateful change, you might soon grow and harvest

produce in your own kitchen.


Keira Amstutz

Scott Massey (right) and members of the Hydro Grow LLC

team have earned several top finishes in pitch competitions.

Continued on page 41