In an era when locally grown food is more than a fad, here is the latest twist. Growing your own food in your kitchen is about as local as you can get!
The GroPod makes that possible. It’s billed as a smart appliance that optimizes plant growth, reduces water use and minimizes energy consumption of leafy produce, primarily lettuce. The company taking orders for GroPods claims it’s the most practical way to have fresh salads with no preservatives and grown with no pesticides available in your home every day of the year.
Sound too good to be true? The product is real — it’s a specialized growth chamber that uses aeroponics instead of hydroponics to produce a nearly continuous supply of food. If there’s a catch, it’s the price tag. Currently, the appliance retails for $1,995. You can also sign up for a subscription service, which will deliver “seed pods” to you as needed. The seed pods are ready to place inside the appliance to begin growing. You can order a GroPod now for delivery later in 2020.
Idea is born
Scott Massey, one of the developers of this concept, says the idea came from his experiences as a student at Purdue University. He took training from Cary Mitchell in Purdue’s Horticulture Department. For many years, Mitchell has assisted with projects to help NASA figure out how to grow food for astronauts in the space station orbiting the Earth.
Massey gained more knowledge about growing food inside a climate-controlled chamber while working on projects for NASA himself. He later put that knowledge to use to come up with a novel idea — a chamber that will allow consumers of the future to grow their own food rather than rely on purchasing it at a traditional store.
Established companies are also looking at this technology, and there are other products under development that would allow you to grow lettuce at home, Massey acknowledges. However, he believes the product he and his partner developed has advantages in efficiency and other areas compared to other ventures in this new space.
Will Massey’s idea take off? Time will tell. Purdue is quickly gaining a reputation for its efforts as an incubator for new ideas and companies that want to commercialize an idea into a product. Most of them have one thing in common: They have a revolutionary idea, but they need startup funding. Often that comes from people willing to put up venture capital.
Massey has been displaying his product at all kinds of trade shows, from the Indiana Farm Bureau’s first-ever “idea session” during its 100th annual convention in French Lick, to the international CES (formerly Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, to the Purdue Ag Alumni Fish Fry at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in February.
“We’re getting the word out, and taking orders at the same time,” Massey says. One possibility is that a larger firm will want to license or purchase the technology. This is an avenue that sometimes allows a startup company to market a technology with promise.
Meanwhile, check out the GroPod for yourself at gropod.io.