BetaBurgh Grants Won By Projects Playing With Food, Music, Art, Energy

By Mark Belko
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) BetaBurgh is one of two new initiatives being undertaken by the Pittsburgh Downtown partnership to tap into the city’s rising tech sector and the efforts to make Pittsburgh more sustainable. For women in business who are looking for a supportive startup environment, you may want to check out what’s happening in the Steel City.


A 20-foot shipping container capable of growing 400 pounds of lettuce a month. A solar-powered art installation that doubles as a free charging station for mobile devices. And the means to turn your cell phone into a musical instrument for a lunchtime jam.

They are among four projects selected by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership to receive $10,000 BetaBurgh grants, a new initiative designed to give local startups an outlet for their creative juices, while making the Golden Triangle just a little more happenin’.

“The projects will entertain and educate while bringing new energy and activity to Downtown, while supporting startups in the development of their business,” said Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of the PDP, which announced the winners at the partnership’s annual meeting Tuesday.

Also at the meeting, Mayor Bill Peduto outlined his vision for making Smithfield Street the next big retail center Downtown.

BetaBurgh is one of two new initiatives being undertaken by the partnership to tap into the city’s rising tech sector and the efforts to make Pittsburgh more sustainable.

The other, called Re:NEW Festival, will run for a month from Sept. 9 to Oct. 9. Celebrating creative reuse, transformation and sustainability, the festival will feature art, music, performances, films, and other events. The highlight will be the U.S. premiere of Drap-Art, the international festival of recycling art held annually in Barcelona, Spain.

BetaBurgh was designed to give startups, entrepreneurs, nonprofits and small businesses a chance to pitch and test products or services to pedestrians while activating spaces Downtown.

One of the winners, the Aquaponics Project, will renovate a 20-foot shipping container to house a sustainable aquaponics ecosystem that will be able to produce up to 400 pounds of lettuce a month and 300 pounds of freshwater fish. It will be open for public tours, though its location has yet to be determined.

In another, Fine Art Miracles, a local nonprofit, will team with Carnegie Mellon University startup Collaborative Experiential Electronic Musical Instruments to use a CEEMI hardware device to turn Wi-Fi compatible devices into musical instruments.

The technology is designed to bring together those with little or no musical experience to play together. It will be tested with the daytime crowds Downtown.

LA (Land + Art) Kids, a Kingsley Association initiative involving Pittsburgh Public School students that combines art and renewable energy, will build a solar-powered art installation to serve as a charging station for cell phones and other mobile devices. Those involved will use reusable materials from Construction Junction and work with a local solar energy manufacturer to install solar panels.

Pittsburgh-based Digital Dream Labs will create a super-sized version of its Puzzlets product, which uses puzzle pieces and a digital game to engage children in cooperative game play, for use Downtown.

Mr. Peduto, meanwhile, said that he wants to see the same type of transformation that has occurred on Wood Street, where the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation has rehabbed a handful of buildings, moved to Smithfield a block away.

He envisions it being filled with Pittsburgh-area stores and the “new retail of the future where there isn’t stockrooms filled with products but the Amazons and the Warby Parkers and the other companies in creating that 21st century experience of retail so we’re no longer competing against suburban shopping malls but we’re driving people in from the suburbs to shop in Downtown.”

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