Mr. Mpelka's quest to grow lettuce, cucumbers, and other crops much faster and more efficiently took him from the deserts of the Middle East and the ravaged countrysides of Europe during World War II to abandoned copper mines in Canada, where he helped grow trees 5,000 feet below ground to , finally, the banks of the Mystic River, where he set up a"farm" in an 8,000-square-foot Medford warehouse.
A native of Lynn, Mr. Mpelkas earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a master's degree in plant physiology from the University of Connecticut. During World War II, Mr. Mpelkas served in the European, African, and Middle Eastern theaters and was specialist in an emerging form of agriculture called hydroponics, in which the plants were grown in nutrient-packed solutions instead of soil. He consulted on projects ranging from food factories in Japan to the proposed NASA space station. After retiring in 1990, Mr. Mpelkas helped develop a business called Controlled Environment Agriculture Inc. in Medford, Ma. with Dwight Schaeffer "Shay" Collins. Mr Collins is active in promoting the goals set by Mr. Mpelkas.
Mr. Mpelkas passed away, January 6, 2001. He was 80 years old.