SPOTLIGHT: MEET HOME GROWN INVENTOR AND ENTREPRENEURS SCOTT MASSEY

first_imgScott Massey was born in Evansville, Indiana on March 20, 1995, to Thomas and Joanne Massey. After graduating from Memorial Catholic High School, Scott went on to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering technology with a certificate in entrepreneurship at Purdue University. During the summers of 2014-2015, Scott interned at Separation By Design in Evansville, Indiana,  designing fluid control equipment in the oil and natural gas industry, and made patent drawings for a local attorney.While a Junior at Purdue, a job opening was posted at the Purdue Horticultural College seeking an engineer familiar with fluid control systems to work on a hydroponic research study. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without dirt using nutrient-rich water recycled over the roots in a closed loop. Most hydroponic systems are indoors, meaning they can grow to produce year-round, using 95% less water, and can grow to produce three times faster without the use of pesticides. After being interviewed, Scott was selected to work as a student researcher on this project during the school year. This research study was funded by NASA to conduct controlled environment agriculture (CEA) growth trials in an International Space Station simulation that identified the ideal spectrum (color) of light using LEDs needed for plants to grow food in space. Plants only require a small portion of visible light (red, blue, and some white) to photosynthesize properly. Focusing only on the necessary colors of light needed to grow reduces lighting energy consumption, the most expensive operational cost for CEA. The study specifically used different combinations of red-blue-white LEDs to identify peak photosynthetic output by measuring the Carbon-dioxide input and Oxygen output. Scott worked alongside Ivan Ball who was studying electrical and computer engineering technology. Ivan was born on December 4, 1993, in Owensville, Indiana to Kenny and Karen Ball, and attended Gibson Southern High School before attending Purdue.Scott and Ivan learned about the amazing benefits of hydroponics that could be used to solve the inefficiencies in agriculture today.Scott then applied to several commercial, hydroponic farms for an internship for the summer of 2016. He was disappointed to learn that many of these farms (which have access to state-level agricultural energy pricing which can be as low as $.015 per KWH) still had very little revenue due to the operational costs of indoor growing, so they could not afford to hire a summer intern. Scott then went on to apply to other industries to find an internship outside of Evansville to build up his resume. That time came when a large construction company gave him an offer to work as a project engineer in Hawaii. After accepting his offer, Scott was unexpectedly reassigned to build section-8 government housing for low-income families in El Paso, Texas along the border of Juarez, Mexico. “The area of town I managed was originally named Angel’s triangle but was called the Devil’s triangle by the locals due to the crime in the area. I oversaw a Spanish speaking workforce which removed asbestos from the housing complexes and renovated it for new residents.” Scott witnessed his first major food desert first hand. A food desert is when a low income (often inner city area) is too far away from grocery stores with fresh produce, so the residents are forced to resort to fast food for most meals. “I learned how the food desert epidemic has become a perpetual cycle plaguing our inner cities. When the residents only eat fast food, they become obese and develop health complications that most of the residents can’t afford to seek treatment for which causes them to seek additional government assistance. I found it ironic that HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) allocated $1 Billion to El Paso which was being used to wheel in new appliances the front door, and wheel the used, but still functional appliances out the back door. Suddenly the idea of a hydroponic appliance that could grow fresh produce in a consumer’s home did not seem that crazy. I began making concept drawings and researching prior art patents to determine what this design might look like.” Scott finally came up with a design for the Heliponix™ GroPod. It was a dishwasher-sized aeroponic appliance that used a high-pressure spray nozzle to continuously water the plants. It could grow ahead of leafy greens in approximately 35 days. It could fit over 40 plants in the growing device that could fit under the counter. This accelerated growth rate staggered over the 40 planting ports could yield a full head of leafy greens on a daily basis.At the end of the 2016 summer, Scott returned to Purdue for his senior year with designs for the Heliponix™ GroPod in hand. Scott immediately reached out to Ivan for assistance in programming the software and designing the electrical hardware for the device that they built in Scott’s apartment kitchen. “This started as just a gardening hobby, but it was too expensive. I began working night shifts delivering newspapers for the Exponent to generate the funds needed to keep building prototypes. I quickly realized that this would not provide enough funding, so we entered into business plan competitions to try and win more capital.” Scott drafted a business plan for Heliponix™ (formerly Hydro Grow) which sold the appliance as an initial purchase and then sold a nonperishable, seed pod subscription as a recurring revenue stream similar to a Keurig K cup. “I think a good analogy for this would be the evolution of the ice industry. Ice was originally harvested only in the winter and delivered before it melted. Then refrigeration was invented which made ice available in any city through ice factories independent of the climate throughout the year. However, the market ultimately favored buying personal ice factories (refrigerators) over buying ice. I believe produce farming will follow the same pattern. Farming has been historically defined as harvesting one season a year and delivering it before it perished. Now hydroponic factory farms are profitable through more efficient LEDs (plus agricultural energy pricing) to make fresh produce available in any city independent of the climate throughout the year. I believe the final frontier of produce farming will be in-home aeroponic appliances from non-perishable seed pods!”Scott and Ivan unexpectedly won first place at their first pitch competition in Muncie, Indiana at the Innovation Connector Big Idea Pitch Competition. “After winning that first competition, I thought why stop? We applied to every university business plan competition that we could find.” Scott and Ivan eventually won just under $100K before their graduation. “Our gardening hobby quickly grew out of hand, so we spent the rest of 2017, after graduation, perfecting the design to be sold. It felt pretty good to start selling Heliponix™ GroPods in 2018 to our first customers. Most hydroponic systems can only yield 40-50 grams/kWhr. Only through the design, we filed our first provisional patent on, could we grow over 100 grams/kWhr. This revolutionary approach towards CEA has made it profitable for the consumer without government subsidies for the first time.” The company is currently assembling the GroPods literally in-house, in a garage in Southern Indiana where all of the main parts are sourced from Indiana suppliers or 3D printed on site.Scott and Ivan have secured their first government contracts, created several jobs for software engineers, and have seen a sharp increase in sales. “We can’t make these fast enough, so we are currently exploring opportunities to increase manufacturing productivity,” said Ivan. Scott has been selected by the Mandela Washington Fellowship to visit Togo, Africa on behalf of the U.S. Department of State to teach lectures about sustainable agriculture at the University of Lomé for April 2018. “What’s really interesting about our work in Africa is that it does not have a commercial agenda since the funding has already been provided. We are creating an open source, pictorial manual that shows even an illiterate person how to assemble their own low-cost hydroponic system that could feed a small family leafy greens. We only ask that they post about their builds on social media to track the impact of the project. The manual will be available across the continent for free. Our progress in Africa will not be tracked in dollars earned, but instead the number of mouths fed and lives saved from hunger. Most of the countries in Africa import over 80% of their food, so this isn’t just an issue of environmental sustainability. This is a national security threat for these countries if their food supplies are cut, so they need to become independent” said Scott. Scott is predicting that the world’s largest produce farming company will own no land within the next 30 years.According to the United Nations, we need to increase our global food output by 70% if we are going to avoid a global food crisis in 2050. However, this will be difficult, because agriculture already accounts for 80% of American freshwater consumption. More information can be found out about Heliponix™ at www.heliponix.com or emailing [email protected] LinkEmailSharelast_img

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