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Former Software Engineer Takes a High-Tech Approach to Farming How PodPonics transformed an unused lot in Atlanta into a productive farm.

By Jodi Helmer

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Entrepreneur: Matt Liotta, a former software engineer, designed a computer program to control light, temperature and moisture levels in old shipping containers, creating an ideal environment for growing lettuce. His company, PodPonics, transformed an unused lot in Atlanta into a productive farm.

"Aha" moment: After selling his telecommunications company in 2008, Liotta took time off to develop business ideas. During a trip to an Atlanta supermarket, he noticed that most of the fruits and vegetables came from other states or countries. "Almost all of the lettuce consumed in the U.S. comes from California," he says. "There is such a demand for fresh, local produce, but almost no one outside of California is growing lettuce on a large scale." Liotta realized that if he applied his software engineering skills to farming, he could develop a solution to the local food production issue.

Seed money: In 2010 Liotta created a software program to maintain ideal growing conditions, purchased four metal shipping containers and set up a test site in a parking lot in an industrial section of Atlanta. He invested $100,000 to turn the containers into a mini farm. Lettuce started sprouting a few days after it was planted. "Overnight, an R&D project turned into a business, and I've been trying to keep up ever since," he says.

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