The Aquaponics Project team. Photo by Renee Rosensteel.

Four innovative Pittsburgh startups have been chosen as the first class of the BetaBurgh incubator, a new initiative of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, announced yesterday at their annual meeting.  PDP President and CEO Jeremy Waldrup says they received more than 35 proposals for the new program, and were “genuinely inspired” by the ideas.

“The projects will entertain and educate while bringing new energy and activity to Downtown while supporting startups in the development of their business,” he says.

BetaBurgh, launched earlier this year, sought entrepreneurs, for-profit and nonprofit organizations, startups, and small businesses with ideas to “engage with and enhance” the Downtown Pittsburgh experience. The program is funded by the BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania. Innovation Works, AlphaLab and AlphaLab Gear, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, and Thrill Mill all provide technical support.

The projects in the first round of BetaBurgh include:

The Aquaponics Project, established to educate the public about sustainable urban farming practices, and give hands-on training and experience to anyone who wants to learn more about aquaponics and sustainable farming. Aquaponics is a system of aquaculture where the waste produced by farmed fish supplies nutrients for plants, which in turn purify the water. This project will be housed in a 20-foot shipping container. Even though it’s only 160 square feet, the system can produce nearly 400 pounds of lettuce monthly (nothing like a sustainable salad!). The produce will be available for sale.

Digital Dream Labs will create a large-scale version of its Puzzlets game, which uses puzzle pieces on a digital board game for kids to promote learning and engagement. This project will include their Cork the Volcano game, and will be featured at events Downtown “and when you’re out and about lunch hour,” says Kenya Boswell of BNY Mellon.

Fine Art Miracles and Collaborative Experiential Electronic Musical Instruments (CEEMI) will partner to turn any wifi-compatible device into a musical instrument, and will test the technology throughout Downtown Pittsburgh. Fine Art Miracles is a nonprofit that offers art lessons and art and music therapy, and CEEMI is a music technology startup from Carnegie Mellon University.

LA (Land + Art) Kids will build a solar-powered art installation from reusable materials from Construction Junction and a local solar panel company. The installation also will provide free charging for mobile devices. LA Kids is an experiential education program in renewable energy, sustainability and art and design for Pittsburgh Public School students in grades 6 through 12.

Look for another round of BetaBurgh projects later this year.

Kim Lyons is an award-winning writer and editor always on the lookout for a great story. Her experience includes writing about business, politics, and local news, and she has a huge crush on Pittsburgh.