Research Foundation News

January 14, 2019

Purdue plant science startups receive $100,000 in investments

Heliponix Massey Co-founder Scott Massey stands next to GroPod, an in-home greenhouse that grows fresh produce out of a small coffee machine pod-like seed holders. He cofounded Heliponix with Ivan Ball to commercialize GroPod. (Image provided) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The Purdue Ag-Celerator Fund has announced that it is investing $100,000 in two plant science startups: Heliponix LLC, which is developing coffee machine-like pods that can grow produce in homes, and Karyosoft, which is creating easy-to-use software solutions that simplify genome data analytics for microbiome  professionals.

 “This investment round was the fifth Ag-Celerator cohort helping Purdue entrepreneurs commercialize their agricultural innovations,” said Karen Plaut, the Glenn W. Sample Dean of the College of Agriculture. “We have enabled 10plant science startups to make progress on development of their company and products due to this investment.”

Previous recipients of the Ag-Celerator investment program are Ongenia LLC, JUA Technologies International LLC, ZeaVaxx LLC, Phicrobe LLCVinSense Technology LLCAkanocure Pharmaceuticals Inc.Progeny Drone Inc. and Gen3Bio Inc.

The Ag-Celerator is a $2 million fund devoted to supporting the commercialization of technologies impacting plant sciences. In 2015, the College of Agriculture and the Purdue Research Foundation co-founded the Ag-Celerator fund as part of the Purdue Moves program. The program is managed by Purdue Ventures, the investment arm of the Purdue Foundry.

Loci software Loci saves researchers time, money and effort by streamlining microbial genomics data onto a web-based software solution. Founder Rajesh Perianayagam developed the software solution through Karyosoft in order to minimize data loss and maximize research advancement. (Image provided) Download image

“We have seen that startups receiving Ag-Celerator investments during this critical time in their development are advancing quickly in the plant science industry,” said John Hanak, Purdue Ventures’ managing director. “The selection committee deliberated very carefully over the many high-quality presentations before choosing Heliponix and Karyosoft for this investment round.”

Heliponix and Karyosoft each received $50,000 investments. All finalists presented their innovations to the Ag-Celerator Selection Committee, which included judges Mark White of Prairie Crest Capital, Pat Morand of Open Prairie Ventures and Kyle Welborn of The Yield Lab.

Purdue Polytechnic Institute alumni Scott Massey and Ivan Ball co-founded Heliponix to build GroPod, a fully automated aeroponic appliance growing clean produce in consumers' homes for daily harvest. The in-home greenhouse creates perfect climate conditions for a variety of crops, including spinach, cilantro and arugula.

“Our current user base has provided invaluable feedback that we used to perfect the GroPod software to achieve the highest degree of automation and eliminate as much user maintenance as possible,” Massey said. “Now, we have created the most energy-efficient and highest-yielding growing appliance possible.”

Heliponix will use its Ag-Celerator funding to expand GroPod production capacity to meet a large demand. Massey will also lead a sustainable farming and hydroponic systems workshop for African farmers in January 2018 with funding from the Department of State. Read more about Heliponix and GroPod here.

Karyosoft, founded by Rajesh Perianayagam, is helping microbiome biologists to analyze genome data with Loci, a software platform that accelerates biologists’ time-to-market for their innovations and improves data integrity and cost efficiency. Loci helps biologists research microbes that could improve crop production, animal health and even advance cures for cancer, diabetes and Crohn’s disease.

“Winning Ag-Celerator is a testimony that investors recognize our innovative technology, Loci, solves a real-world problem and recognizes Karyosoft as a potential high-growth business,” Perianayagam said. “We have learned the microbiome market trends and the needs of our customers, and, we have plans to develop more intelligent software platforms to help them to market their microbiome innovations.”

Karyosoft will invest its Ag-Celerator investment for their next goals including the advancement of Loci 1.0, development of Loci 2.0 and marketing both products resulting in an increased customer base. Read more about Karyosoft and Loci here.

The Ag-Celerator aligns with Purdue's Giant Leaps celebration of the university’s global advancements made in health, space, artificial intelligence and sustainability highlights as part of Purdue’s 150th anniversary. Those are the four themes of the yearlong celebration’s Ideas Festival, designed to showcase Purdue as an intellectual center solving real-world issues.

About Purdue Foundry

The Purdue Foundry is an entrepreneurship and commercialization accelerator in Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship whose professionals help Purdue innovators create startups. Managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, the Purdue Foundry was co-named a top recipient at the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Designation and Awards Program by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities 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 foundry@prf.org.

Writer: Kelsey Henry, 765-588-3342, kehenry@prf.org  

Purdue Research Foundation Contact: Tom Coyne, 765-558-1044, tjcoyne@prf.org  

Sources: Karen Plaut, kplaut@purdue.edu

John Hanak, jmhanak@purdue.edu 

Scott Massey, scott@heliponix.com   

Rajesh Perianayagam, rajeshpn@karyosoft.com

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