GreenTowers, LLC - Lessons Learned in the Creation of an Urban Agriculture Student Startup Company

Open Access
Betz, Dustin David
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Kathleen Marie Kelley, Thesis Supervisor
  • Elizabeth Cunningham Kisenwether, Honors Advisor
  • Elsa Selina Sanchez, Faculty Reader
  • Kathleen Marie Kelley, Honors Advisor
  • aquaponics
  • urban
  • agriculture
  • startup
  • LLC
  • vertical
  • farming
  • entrepreneurship
  • organic
  • food
  • hydroponics
  • aquaculture
Urban agriculture is the integration of agricultural production systems into nontraditional spatial environments, specifically urban and suburban residential and commercial areas, as opposed to more traditional rural agricultural settings. As the world’s population grows and becomes increasingly urbanized, humans bear witness to a shrinking minority of persons finding their employment in agricultural production practices. The industrialized agricultural system has bestowed consumers with many benefits, but it is accompanied by a broadening sense of disconnect between the average person and the food that he or she consumes. Urban agriculture offers the unique possibility for average citizen food consumers to become reacquainted with the intimacy that most have lost with their food—primarily how and where it is grown, handled, processed, packaged, and shipped through, all before it reaches their tables. Aquaponics is the integration of hydroponics—soilless plant production—and aquaculture—fish farming. Aquaponics presents a model for a designed ecological semi-symbiotic system, in which each of the major outputs is harvestable for human consumption, while also adding beneficial value to the other biological system components. Aquaponic integration is far more sustainable than either hydroponics or aquaculture alone, and is therefore unsurprisingly a rapidly emerging horticultural technique. Because aquaponic systems are enclosed and utilize circulating water instead of soil, they provide the capability to be integrated into urban agriculture, including areas where soil may be contaminated in brownfields or even completely nonexistent in endless asphalt acreage. Because aquaponic systems pump nutrient-rich water over roots instead of growing plants in soils, the technique also readily scales vertically, without the need to replace spent soils, further lending the practice to spatially constrained urban areas. GreenTowers, LLC is a State College, Pennsylvania startup company innovating in urban agricultural and aquaponic product design.