CEO: Grant represents ‘strategic validation’ for agbioscience startup
The CEO of Evansville-based agbioscience startup Anu says a recently-awarded $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation will allow the company to continue research and develop for “a new” way to sustainably grow produce in your own kitchen.
The company, which previously operated under the name GroPod, received a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant. Scott Massey says the company previously received a Phase 1 grant which allowed the company to examine and optimize LED light wavelengths.
”But now we’re taking a lot of these findings and actually applying it to artificial intelligence computer vision system,” Massey said In an interview with Business of Health reporter Kylie Veleta. “But I’m limited on what I can talk about.”
Secrecy aside, Massey says the multispectral photomorphogenesis system allows consumers to grow produce in the convenience of their own homes. He says a novel mechanical design and control algorithm helps produce higher yields without users needing to add fertilizer manually. The device is about the size of a dishwasher and fits underneath a kitchen counter.
“The user simply puts a pot in and harvests the plant out with no added step in between. That’s something that’s profoundly unique and intuitive and so simple that even children do it oftentimes with a lot of our household users,” said Massey.
He says the company intends to prompt change in the food production space by developing a new way of obtaining food that is not optimized for mass production or distribution.
Massey says it’s not only local but “hyper-homegrown” by using analytics, data and science to grow fresh produce at a household level. The company calls the effect “harvesting when hungry.”
“At no point are our users harvesting and storing this produce in the fridge to consume on a later date and letting the nutrition decay or diminish over that time,” said Massey. “It’s full nutrition, full flavor because these plants are alive the moment, you’re actually consuming it outside of the system.”
Massey says the NSF funding is strategic validation for what Anu is doing. He says the funding will allow the company to not only create more jobs in Indiana, but will allow it to push the frontier of cutting-edge industries, like artificial intelligence.
“It’s incredibly exciting to see that the U.S. government’s putting funding into these initiatives to truly localize agriculture, on a household residential level. So I think it’s significant for really anyone who enjoys high quality food.”