Computer Science sophomore programs dinner with Hydro Grow


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. They liken the pods to Kuerig cups.

The prototype resides in The Anvil co-working space just off-campus. Carlson explained his role in the start-up’s development that looks to feed families for cheap without having to leave their kitchens.

“As a Computer Science major,” Carlson said, “my role in this project was programming the device to control the whole thing – the pump, EC monitors, pH levels, turning lights on and off.”

The large mount that holds the 42 plant pods spins around for easy use. On a visit to The Anvil on Jan. 19, Carlson’s Hydro Grow had basil, arugula, mint and more growing lush and green despite the clouds and cold temperatures outside.

“I’m working on a mobile companion app for Android and iOS,” Carlson said. “You can control the device similar to Chromecast. You connect to it over your Wi-Fi. Anyone can connect to it to control the lights, water pump. Also, I’ve programmed ways to save energy during the night.”

Carlson and his team already have a smaller version in the works that will hold 45 plant pods. Carlson credits the BoilerMake hackathon and the start-up culture now engrained in the Department of Computer Science in the success of Hydro Grow and his passion for using his programming skills to create a product that can help families worldwide.

“As Computer science students, all we do, really, is work on virtual things. You don’t actually get to see your product,” Carlson explained. "It's really rewarding to work on a project right away you can see the lights turn on. You can make the water turn on and off. You can taste it.

“It’s great to see your code do something in real life as opposed to an application or web site.”

Jimmy Carlson

Jimmy Carlson poses next to Hydro Gro hydroponics system.

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