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
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
is president and CEO of
Indiana Humanities. This is
the fourth of a series in
individual Hoosiers who
are making a difference by
merging STEM and the
humanities. Learn more atwww.indianahumanities.org/
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.
Scott Massey (right) and members of the Hydro Grow LLC
team have earned several top finishes in pitch competitions.Continued on page 41