Research Foundation News

December 12, 2016

Hydroponics team wins Schurz Innovation Challenge at Purdue

Schurz hydro Hydro Grow LLC team members Scott Massey (left,) Jimmy Carlson and Ivan Ball pose in front of their hydroponic growing device. The team won first place at the recent Schurz Innovation Challenge at Purdue. (Purdue Research Foundation photo/Curt Slyder) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.  – Hydro Grow LLC, which is working on a refrigerator-sized automated device to grow vegetables in consumers' homes, took top honors and $5,000 at the Schurz Innovation Challenge Dec. 8 at Purdue University.

The three-person team consists of Purdue students Scott Massey, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering technology; Ivan Ball, a senior majoring in electrical engineering technology; and Jimmy Carlson, a sophomore majoring in computer science.

Their device grows plants in pods placed within slots on a tower housed within a glass-enclosed case. The design allows the plants to grow at an accelerated rate. The company also plans to sell the pods.

"We want to eliminate consumers' dependence on grocery stores by providing them an aesthetically-appealing appliance that grows enough organic produce to meet their needs," Massey said. "A NASA research project that Ivan and I worked on at Purdue got us interested in hydroponics. Jimmy came on board soon after that."

Hydro Grow is looking for marketing channels and strategic partners as the founders move toward production in January.

 "It's hard to pick a market for this," Massey said. "There's the food industry, the hydroponics industry, the electronics industry; it's a diverse area that crosses a lot of different markets."

Viratect placed second in the competition and also was chosen as the crowd favorite. That group walked away with $3,500 and $500, respectively, for each award.

The two-person team of Katherine Clayton, a fifth-year doctoral student in mechanical engineering, and Andrew Witten, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering, has created a platform of disease diagnostics at the point of care that can be used to predict the next outbreak of a disease around the world.

The device consists of a blood sample reader that fits over the camera of a smartphone and an app with an algorithm that can determine if there is a pathogen and what it is.

"We got involved in the Schurz competition because we really wanted to get our names out there and are very excited about our idea," Clayton said.

Third place was awarded to Moisture Sensor Networked to Smartphones, whose smart phone app is designed to measure the moisture in grain for farmers in developing countries that do not have access to moisture meters.

They received $1,500 for third place.

Schurz Communications Inc. sponsors the competition, which is organized by Purdue Foundry. It provides participants the opportunity to test their creativity and skills in developing innovative ideas in media technology. Participants developed and demonstrated prototypes that were judged by a panel of entrepreneurs and media professionals. Thirteen teams competed in this semester's competition, and each team was required to have at least one Purdue graduate student or undergraduate student.

About Schurz Communications Inc.

Schurz Communications Inc., is a Mishawaka, Indiana-based news and information company that consists of cable, newspaper publishing and digital media. The company publishes daily and weekly newspapers in medium and small markets. It also owns cable companies and phone directories. Geographically, Schurz Communications has a presence in Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and South Dakota.

About Purdue Foundry

The Purdue Foundry is an entrepreneurship and commercialization hub in Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship whose professionals help Purdue innovators create startups. The Purdue Foundry is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2014 Incubator Network of the Year from the National Business Incubation Association for its work in entrepreneurship. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at

Purdue Research Foundation Contact: Curt Slyder, 765-588-3342,

Sources: Scott Massey, 

Katherine Clayton,

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