March 2, 2017

Tri-D Dynamics, Hydro Grow win top honors at 30th Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition

Deason Tri-D The winning team of Tri-D Dynamics show off their top prize in the Gold Division of the Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition. From left are Greg Deason of the Purdue Research Foundation, team members Deepak Atyam, Alex Finch and Pablo Podesta, and Arnold Chen, managing director of the Burton D. Morgan Entrepreneurship Center. (Purdue University photo/John Underwood) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A more-efficient rocket engine and a food growing system that is partially-inspired by NASA work were the big winners at Purdue’s 30th Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition.

Tri-D Dynamics, which aims to make more affordable and efficient rocket engines won in the graduate student/open Gold Division and took home the $30,000 top prize. Tri-D’s patent-pending process will allow engine manufacturers to be more efficient, lower weight, and produce their products more quickly. Highlighting the importance and effectiveness of the university’s Zucrow Laboratories, this is the second straight year the Gold Division has been won by a team creating rocket propulsion technology.

"Our next steps should be very exciting! We have our first signed contract underway that we will be working to complete as well as hearing back from our proposals to the NASA SBIR/STTR program,” Alex Finch, COO and co-founder said after Tuesday’s competition. “Following graduation from Purdue, we will also be moving to a full-time capacity and setting up our operations near our customer base in the Los Angeles area. We have a couple of other student business plan competitions approaching that we hope to do well in, as well as moving to an aerospace-focused accelerator to improve our connections within the industry.”

PathVis, a diagnostics company using smartphones to track pathogen outbreaks, won $15,000 for its second-place finish, followed by vaccine company ZeaVaxx ($7,500), Sustainable Plastics Products SP2 ($3,750) and Expimetrics ($3,750), which has created a platform intended to improve online surveys.

Ice Miller LLP will provide free legal and consulting services and cash awards in the form of $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000 to the top three finishers in the Gold Division. The top three will also receive a one-year free membership to the Anvil Co-working Space, which is valued at $2,100.

Deason Hydro Grow Hydro Grow team members tout their product during the Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition on Tuesday on Purdue’s campus. (Purdue University photo/John Underwood) Download image

In the Black Division, featuring Purdue undergrads, Hydro Grow LLC won the $20,000 top prize for its pod-based vegetable growing system. Similar to the popular Keurig coffeemaker, Hydro Grow uses seed cups placed into a stand-alone tower so customers can grow their own vegetables indoors and in less time than it would take using traditional methods.

By taking part in other competitions, Hydro Grow has already raised $55,000 in startup money and will be heading to New York City for “The Blender” Business Pitch Competition at the Forbes building later in March.

“We recognize, and celebrate our moral obligation to design sustainable food sources for the betterment of humanity by allowing everyone to grow their freedom. This would simultaneously establish a new precedent of quality for produce, so consumers can now enjoy maximum freshness and nutrient content directly from the plant,” founder and CEO Scott Massey said. “As we are nearing the completion of our second-generation model, we are currently looking forward to a potential licensing agreement in the near future. Ideally, this will accelerate our path to bench-marking our first sale.”

LOQBOX, an IoT (Internet of Things) product that will allow users to unlock their door by using a smartphone or tablet, won second place in the Black Division, taking home $10,000. LEAP ($5,000), a device to break down barriers between educators and disabled students, finished third, followed by resource-sharing program US DiDi ($2,500), and small farm irrigation system HydraMatic ($2,500). Three of the Black Division finalists are enrolled in the Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program. Directed by Nathalie Duval-Couetil, it one of the largest multidisciplinary programs in the country. Each year, the program serves over 1,500 students through a portfolio of academic and co-curricular offerings.

The Purdue Foundry will provide incubator space to Tri-D Dynamics, and Krannert School of Management will provide one free registration in the Applied Management Principles program to both Tri-D and Hydro Grow, a prize valued at nearly $5,000.          

“The finals of the Burton Morgan Business Plan Competition were truly inspiring. The teams that competed presented a number of great ideas that have the ability to make a tremendous impact on our world,” said Greg Deason, director of innovation and entrepreneurship at the Burton D. Morgan Center. “Seeing ideas have impact is something we take seriously, and we look forward to continuing to support the competitors as they take the next steps with their ideas.”

Celebrating 30 years, the annual Purdue entrepreneurship competition started in 1987 with an endowment gift from the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, which also funded the $7 million, 31,000-square-foot Center for Entrepreneurship in Discovery Park.

Dedicated in 2004, the goal of the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship is to foster and stimulate the understanding and application of entrepreneurship with faculty and students across the Purdue campus and with stakeholders throughout Indiana and the world. 

Writer: Tim Doty, 765-496-2571, 

Sources: Greg Deason, 765-588-3363,

Bambrah K. Walker, 765-494-1335,

Arnold Chen,

Scott Massey,

Alex Finch,

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