Heliponix© Awarded Competitive Grant from the National Science Foundation

March 3, 2021
Small Business Innovation Research Program provides seed funding for R&D.

Evansville, Indiana – Heliponix has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant for $256,000 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, LLC was established almost four years ago by two undergraduate engineering students working on a NASA-funded research study at Purdue University to optimize the photosynthetic efficiency of growing lettuce in a controlled-environment hydroponic chamber for astronauts to more efficiently grow crops in space. By manipulating the spectrum of LED light on the lettuce plants, the research team led by Dr. Cary Mitchell was able to see an increase in yields while simultaneously reducing the energy consumption of the system. Research team members Scott Massey and Ivan Ball, co-founders of Heliponix, saw an opportunity to further increase yields and minimize energy consumption through an innovative design called the rotary aeroponic cultivation chamber (RACC), which has multiple patents pending, for higher yields through its mechanical design coupled with a novel control algorithm facilitated through proprietary cloud software. 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.

As a leader in tunable horticultural research lighting systems, the Lighting Enabled Systems and Applications (LESA) Center of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is working with Heliponix to provide research-grade, multi-spectral, tunable LED modules and associated programmable control systems compatible with Heliponix’s rotary chamber.  These modules are based on the LESA Center’s TIGER horticulture research lighting modules and will provide the research flexibility needed in Phase I to optimize the LED illumination impact on plant growth variables in leafy greens including biomass, crop yield, nutritional content, and energy efficiency.

“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.”

“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. 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.” - Scott Massey, CEO and Co-Founder of Heliponix

Once a small business is awarded a Phase I SBIR/STTR grant (up to $256,000), it becomes eligible to apply for a Phase II grant (up to $1,000,000). Small businesses with Phase II grants are eligible to receive up to $500,000 in additional matching funds with qualifying third-party investment or sales.

Startups or entrepreneurs who submit a three-page Project Pitch will know within three weeks if they meet the program’s objectives to support innovative technologies that show promise of commercial and/or societal impact and involve a level of technical risk. Small businesses with innovative science and technology solutions, and commercial potential are encouraged to apply. All proposals submitted to the NSF SBIR/STTR program, also known as America’s Seed Fund powered by NSF, undergo a rigorous merit-based review process. To learn more about America’s Seed Fund powered by NSF, visit: https://seedfund.nsf.gov/

Connect with Helionix to learn more about the GroPod© Smart Garden Appliance

Facebook : GroPodOfficial

Instagram : GroPod

Twitter : GroPodOfficial

Linkedin : GroPod

About the Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications (LESA) Center

The LESA Center is a graduated National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Research Center, with matching fund support from New York State Empire Development Corporation and Corporate Membership. LESA is an interdisciplinary, multi-university center developing “Systems that ThinkTM.” It is dedicated to developing autonomous intelligent systems to address modern challenges in the connected environment, and is housed at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  To learn more please visit lesa.rpi.edu.

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, 32 research centers, more than 145 academic programs, and a dynamic community made up of more than 7,600 students and over 100,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 145 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit www.rpi.edu.

About the National Science Foundation's Small Business Programs: America’s Seed Fund powered by NSF awards $200 million annually to startups and small businesses, transforming scientific discovery into products and services with commercial and societal impact. Startups working across almost all areas of science and technology can receive up to $1.75 million to support research and development (R&D), helping de-risk technology for commercial success. America’s Seed Fund is congressionally mandated through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The NSF is an independent federal agency with a budget of about $8.1 billion that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering.


Leah Scott, Lighting Enabled Systems and Applications (LESA)

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute



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