Purdue alumni founders’ goal is for users to collectively become the largest farm in the world without owning any land
A startup company founded by Purdue University alumni has received funding from the state of Indiana to advance the manufacture of its products.
Heliponix LLC, doing business as anu™ (previously gropod®), has received a $200,000 Indiana Manufacturing Readiness Grants (MRG) award to mass manufacture its aeroponic seed pod consumables.
Manufacturing Readiness Grants are provided by the Indiana Economic Development Corp. and administered by Conexus Indiana and the Next Level Manufacturing Institute. They are available to Indiana manufacturers willing to make capital investments to integrate smart technologies and processes that improve capacity, productivity and competitiveness. Launched in 2020, the MRG program has supported tech-enabled investment in smart manufacturing all around the state.
Anu, founded by Purdue Polytechnic Institute alumni Scott Massey and Ivan Ball, sells a smart garden appliance. The small, fully automated, in-home greenhouse grows daily servings of produce from subscription seed pods.
Aeroponics is a form of hydroponics, or growing plants without soil. Massey said the pods empower consumers to grow fresh, high-quality produce including most leafy green vegetables, culinary herbs, ornamental/flowering plants and an increasing number of fruiting plant varieties such as peppers, tomatoes and more in a controlled environment.
“Our cultivation chambers use deep-learning, computer-vision algorithms to produce higher yields than other controlled-environment agriculture technology,” Massey said. “The chambers consume less energy and more than 95 percent less water than conventional field farming. With zero use of pesticides or preservatives, they represent an environmentally friendly solution for year-round accelerated growing.”
Massey said the funding will allow anu to scale a sustainable platform for consumers by supplying growers with recurring seed pod subscriptions.
“This funding has dramatically increased our ability to manufacture these seed pods, but in a volume that will quickly outpace the collective yields of the largest farms in the world,” Massey said. “It further accelerates our pursuit to collectively become the largest farm in the world without owning any land.”
Mitch Landess, vice president of innovation and digital transformation at Conexus Indiana, said manufacturing entrepreneurship, especially when it involves technology, is vital for Indiana.
“Small firms founded and led by entrepreneurs that leverage the resources around them and form credible partnerships are interesting to the Manufacturing Readiness Grants program,” Landess said. “The mix of intellectual property, local venture capital, Small Business Innovation Research funding and participation of larger manufacturing partners made it easy to support anu’s investment in production technology.”
Conexus Indiana recently named Massey to the Conexus Indiana Rising 30 Class of 2023, which recognizes distinguished advanced manufacturing and logistics professionals under the age of 30.
Massey said he and his colleagues at anu appreciate support from Conexus for the Rising 30 recognition and from the IEDC for the $200,000 Manufacturing Readiness Grants award.
“It was only a few years ago that I was a Purdue University student with an idea and the drive to bring it to the market — to empower everyone to grow their own produce. Conexus has done a phenomenal job extending these resources and recognition to make this idea a reality as we continue growing our highly experienced team, creating jobs and attracting more talent to the great state of Indiana,” Massey said.
“Indiana’s support for small businesses is not just unparalleled, but Indiana’s long-standing history of advanced manufacturing has resulted in it being the best possible headquarter base for us.”
Anu received a $100,000 investment from the Ag-Celerator Fund, co-founded by the Purdue Research Foundation and Purdue’s College of Agriculture. It also has received Phase I and Phase II SBIR grants from the National Science Foundation and matching funds from Elevate Ventures.