As college graduation approached, Scott Massey had no clue what he was going to do with the rest of his life.
The Purdue mechanical engineering student worked at the time on a NASA-funded project tasked with growing plants in outer space. It was there that Massey came up with an idea that could tackle a similar issue closer to home.
“I think I realized that if I really had this one shot at life, why not try something new and take a risk,” Massey said.
With the help of classmate and co-founder Ivan Ball, Massey created Hydro Grow, a business whose mission is to provide people easier access to freshly grown produce in the comfort of their homes.
How? It’s called a Gropod. With shape and size similar to a refrigerator, the vertical tower can produce a variety of vegetables and fruits at a much quicker rate than a traditional farm could.
“People want to know how their food is developed, and there’s just a general hunger for that knowledge,” Massey said. “This is a product that lets people have comfort to know that what they have is naturally grown, and they can be present every step of the way.”
The process is simple: Insert a seed pod into one of the Gropod’s slots, pour water into the tower and let it grow.
“It will continue to grow until it's ready for harvest,” Ball said. “You can continually keep your produce fresh.”
Not only is the produce fresher than what’s available at a grocery store, Ball said, hydroponics uses 95 percent less water than a traditional farm.
The majority of water used in traditional farming methods soaks into the ground, leaving only a small percentage to hydrate a plant's roots.
“With a hydroponic system like we have, you’re actually able to continuously recycle the water over and over again by spraying the roots directly,” Ball said.
Hydroponics is a global industry that continues to grow, quickly becoming one of the next targets for sustainable agriculture.
By the year 2050, the world population is estimated to reach more than nine billion people, according to a 2016 U.S. Census Bureau study. Massey said that with more mouths to feed, more food has to be produced.
“There’s a food crisis,” Massey said. “There’s a growing population, and people aren’t being fed. This is a need, and we’re trying to catch up to it.”
Gropod prototype in hand, Massey and his team traveled across the country, participating in several business competitions with hopes of getting Hydro Grow out onto the playing field. And they definitely did.
“It’s been really rapid for us. So far, we’ve been able to raise $82,000 in six months, all as undergraduate students,” Massey said. “I think it’s a product that people are ready for. There’s a want and I think there’s a need.”
Both Massey and Ball, just 22 and 23, said they never expected Hydro Grow to get this far, this fast.
“I had no idea I would be in this position,” Ball said. "I thought I was just getting a job to carry my weekend budget in college. But this actually turned out to be a very exciting adventure.”
Although the Gropod is still in its prototype phase, Massey said they expect to start selling the product in just a few months. Initially, the Gropod will cost "a couple thousand dollars," he said, with the cost likely to fall once the product starts to sell.
“We haven’t really had a lot of trouble finding people so far,” Massey said about potential buyers. “We won a competition at Purdue, and then I woke up the next day with five emails saying, ‘We want to buy one.’”
Success aside, Massey and Ball hope their product will benefit people around the world and become a staple in every home. They know it’s a massive goal, but they believe it’s possible.
“Not only do I think it’s possible,” Ball said, “I think it will 100 percent happen in the future. It’s just, who’s going to be the first one to do it?”