With the agriculture industry employing 40 percent of the world's population, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs are now focused on bringing the latest technologies and ideas to the farm. Many Pittsburgh startups are following suit and are looking to to reinvent and promote sustainable agriculture by providing tools to increase efficiency in an urban setting.
Two of Pittsburgh’s most prominent universities contributing to innovation are the University of Pittsburgh, which is highly touted for its school of engineering, and Carnegie Mellon University, world-renown for computer science and robotics. Pittsburgh's deep ties with, and support of, university entrepreneurship programs helps students turn their ideas into companies, and entices alumni to return with expertise and capital.
Each year, The University of Pittsburgh hosts the Randall Family Big Idea Competition, an experience-based learning start up competition for Pitt students interested in pitching “a big idea” and discovering how to move it forward. The competition awards a total of $100,000 in cash prizes for the top teams. Trellis competed in the 2015 Big Idea Competition and placed fourth overall and third in its category-social innovation. This year, Trellis was invited back to speak at the closing ceremony as a successful company and serve as a team mentor for “Farm to You.”
Farm to You is the the brainchild of Vinh Luong and Joe DiPietro, two freshman at the University of Pittsburgh. Farm to You seeks to make agriculture affordable, efficient, and accessible through a shipping container aquaponics system. The system houses the fish tanks inside the container and then pumps water and nutrients up to a hydroponic greenhouse placed on top of the container. Farm to You allows for vegetables to be grown year around and in urban and rural settings, even on cement or asphalt. Farm to You is also a recipient of a BetaBurgh Grant for $10,000. The team will use the money to renovate a 20-foot shipping container to house one of its sustainable aquaponics systems, designed and built locally. We look forward to where Farm to You will go next and how they will change Pittsburgh’s local food scene.