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Sustainable Farming Project Receives $10,000 Grant to Enhance Pittsburgh

In the growing entrepreneurial community in Pittsburgh and at the University of Pittsburgh, many students take advantage of new opportunities and resources to make their innovative ideas a reality.  The Aquaponics Project Receives $10,000 Grant to Enhance Pittsburgh

Vinh Luong, a University of Pittsburgh freshman studying computer science, recently jumped at the opportunity to submit a proposal for the Aquaponics Project to the newly formed BetaBurgh incubator. BetaBurgh is a program initiated by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, supported by the BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania, and assisted by Innovation Works. 

Luong and his team were among local entrepreneurs, for-profit and non-profit organizations, startups, and small businesses who submitted proposals to Betaburgh with the goal of bringing new energy and activity to Downtown Pittsburgh. 

“I saw that the goals and vision for my project strongly resonated with BetaBurgh’s mission, so I decided to apply,” Luong says.  

The goal of the Aquaponics Project is to create a facility in Pittsburgh’s urban areas to provide fresh, local, and quality produce for the community. The facility will utilize aquaponics, a practice that relies on the symbiotic relationship between fish and plants. Their goal is to produce more than 660 plants per month. 

“The fish excrete waste, which is then converted by natural processes into the perfect nutrients for plants. The plants’ roots act as a filter which consumes the nutrients and returns clean water back into the system,” Luong explains. 

The Aquaponics Project was selected as one of four projects to receive $10,000 in seed funds along with office space in Downtown Pittsburgh. 

The team will use the money to renovate a 20-foot shipping container to house a sustainable aquaponics eco-system designed and built locally. The system will provide a variety of produce to local businesses and will offer hands-on learning to anyone who wants to learn more about sustainable farming.  

While educating the community about sustainable farming, Luong says he also learned something about himself. 

“In the past, I have never really been one to delegate work. If I wanted things done a certain way, I only trusted myself to get them done properly. Throughout the BetaBurgh experience, I have learned that I cannot do it all alone. I realize that being able to delegate is a skill that I still need to improve on, but I was fortunate enough to come across such a supportive and invested team,” he says.

Luong is a resident of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Living Learning Community (LLC), sponsored in part by the University of Pittsburgh College of Business Administration. The Innovation and Entrepreneurship LLC connects entrepreneurial-minded students with the resources they need to develop their skills and experiences. He is also a member of Pitt Enactus, a student organization operated and populated by many Pitt Business students. 

“I knew that it was uncommon for a freshman to pursue something like this, but with all of the connections and resources the Innovation and Entrepreneurship LLC is able to provide, I knew that the project would get done. Through the process of developing Aquaponics, the LLC has put me in touch with many people that have helped guide our team’s vision,” Luong says. 

Students interested in innovation and entrepreneurship are encouraged to learn more about the resources Pitt Business provides, including courses and certificate programs, and access to established entrepreneurs, student clubs and organizations, and scholarships. For more information, visit