GroPod, a Heliponix brand, will invest more than $1.7 million to expand its operations in Evansville, Indiana. The company plans to create 30 jobs by the end of 2025.
The expansion will support production of its primary product, the GroPod system, which is a smart garden appliance that allows consumers the ability to grow vegetables, herbs and specialty plants in their homes.
"GroPod has grown significantly since our humble beginnings in my college apartment while enrolled in our undergraduate degrees at Purdue University," said Scott Massey, GroPod co-founder and CEO. "Despite being native to Evansville, we considered many different startup ecosystems nationwide for some time. With the backing of Purdue University, Elevate Ventures and, not the least of which, the IEDC, it became abundantly clear that Evansville is an ideal location for agricultural technology companies such as ours to grow exponentially in the coming years.”
The Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) offered Heliponix LLC up to $525,000 in conditional tax credits based on the company’s job creation plans. These tax credits are performance-based, meaning the company is eligible to claim incentives once Hoosiers are hired. The city of Evansville supports the project. GroPod is located within an Urban Enterprise Zone, HubZone and Indiana Opportunity Zone and is therefore eligible for additional benefits from the city and federal government.
“Sustainable food production methods, like the GroPod, are needed now more than ever as we are encountering the upper limits of climate dependent food production while demand is ever increasing from a growing population, threatened by water scarcity, climate-related challenges, increasingly common food safety concerns and pandemic-caused labor shortages," Massey added.
According to state officials, GroPod has leveraged several state-supported resources to grow its business, working with the Southwest Indiana Small Business Development Center (Indiana SBDC) for strategic planning, capital access and market research. The company also participated in the 2020 Export Indiana Accelerator Program.
“With our strong agricultural tradition and booming tech sector, Indiana offers an ideal environment for companies like GroPod that are at the intersection of ag and technology to flourish," said Interim Indiana Secretary of Commerce Jim Staton. “Choosing to plant its roots in Evansville, GroPod will not only create high-skilled, high-wage jobs, it will bolster a growing industry that is developing innovative solutions, improving agricultural products consumed around the world and providing consumers with a sustainable food source.”
Massey co-founded GroPod in 2016 with Ivan Ball, and the pair initially funded the business through pitch competition awards, including Gold and Black Awards totaling $100,000 from the Elevate Purdue Foundry Fund in 2018. Since then, the company has raised more than $1 million from investors. GroPod’s parent company, Heliponix, was recently awarded a National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research grant for $256,000 with a $50,000 Elevate match to research an LED lighting system to maximize the production of leafy vegetables.