The National Science Foundation has awarded a Small Business Innovation Research grant to a Purdue University-affiliated startup. The university says the more than $250,000 grant will support Heliponix LLC, which designs, distributes and supports direct-to-consumer, in-home greenhouses.
The funding is in addition to $50,000 in matching funding from Elevate Ventures to conduct research and development work on “multispectral photomorphogenesis in rotary aeroponic cultivation chambers.”
Heliponix sells the GroPod Smart Garden Appliance, an in-home greenhouse to grow daily servings of Pure Produce from subscription Seed Pods. The university says the dishwasher-sized device fits under a kitchen counter and grows produce year-round, providing consumers with fresh and pesticide-free greens.
“NSF is proud to support the technology of the future by thinking beyond incremental developments and funding the most creative, impactful ideas across all markets and areas of science and engineering,” said Andrea Belz, division director of the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships at NSF. “With the support of our research funds, any deep technology startup or small business can guide basic science into meaningful solutions that address tremendous needs.”
The university says the Lighting Enabled Systems and Applications Center of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is working with the startup to provide research-grade LED modules and other programmable control systems compatible with Heliponix’s rotary chamber.
“In the wake of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic’s disruptive force on produce cultivation and recurring food safety recalls, there’s an urgent need to democratize cultivation to establish food sovereignty,” said Scott Massey, co-founder of Heliponix. “We are incredibly thankful for the backing of the National Science Foundation, Purdue University, Elevate Ventures and the countless Hoosiers who have supported our pursuit to grow to become the world’s largest farm through our connected, smart garden appliances known as GroPods without owning a single acre of land.”
The university says the startup is now eligible to apply for a Phase II grant of up to $1 million from the NSF.