Heliponix receives $1M NSF grant

Evansville (January 30, 2023) – Evansville-based Heliponix LLC is receiving nearly $1 million from a Phase II National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research grant, as well as $75,000 in matching funds from Elevate Ventures in Indianapolis. The agbioscience startup says the funding will help it continue research and development efforts for its automated aeroponic appliance.

Heliponix, which does business as Anu and previously did business under the name Gropod, says the multispectral photomorphogenesis system allows consumers to grow produce in the convenience of their own homes.

The company was established six years ago by two undergraduate students in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute. The project, led by Purdue Professor of Horticulture Cary Mitchell, was initially intended as to help NASA astronauts grow crops more efficiently in space.

Researchers and Heliponix co-founders Scott Massey and Ivan Ball say the Rotary Aeroponic Cultivation Chamber uses their novel mechanical design and control algorithm to produce higher yields. Ultimately, the research team says the system is able to increase yields by manipulating the spectrum of LED light on the plants.

“Through decentralized, in-home production of produce, the wasteful inefficiencies and environmental destruction attributed to industrialized agriculture are eliminated, while simultaneously delivering maximum freshness, flavor and nutritional value directly to consumers conveniently,” said Massey, who also serves as CEO of Heliponix. “Produce is harvested when consumers are hungry rather than everything being harvested at the same time, which requires preservation of the produce. It simply stays alive and fresh until it’s eaten.”

Massey says the company is now comprised of more than 20 employees and “continues to rapidly grow.”

The project was previously awarded an SBIR Phase I grant worth $256,000, in addition to $50,000 in matching funds from Elevate Ventures. According to Massey, the Phase I SBIR grant supported Heliponix’s initial research, which was aimed at maximizing plant growth yields, nutritional content and energy efficiency.

“We are now deploying those discoveries into our Phase II deep-learning, computer-vision system to commercialize an autonomous cultivation system for consumers to sustainably eliminate their dependency on grocery stores for eligible produce varieties without preexisting horticultural knowledge required,” Massey said. “Our ‘Keurig for plants’ commercialization strategy empowers consumers to grow their own Pure Produce that is more food safe, free of any pesticides and/or preservatives, and has much less environmental impact than industrial agriculture.”

In addition, the startup previously completed the 2020 Export Indiana Accelerator, administered through the Indiana Small Business Development Center.

In 2021, the company announced plans to invest nearly $2 million to expand its headquarters in Evansville and create up to 30 jobs by the end of 2025.

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