Recent graduate focuses on urban agriculture, food sustainability

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Jared Yarnall-Schane, a 2014 mechanical engineering graduate, always knew he wanted to be an engineer but wanted to explore different majors and facets of engineering. He was excited by all of the opportunities and new experiences Penn State offered, and he decided to attend.

When exploring educational and career paths, Jared found himself interested in both business and engineering. With a mechanical engineering degree, he could have the breadth of experience necessary to later pursue a master of business administration degree and even start his own business. This compelled him to engage in the mechanical engineering curriculum.

Jared’s Penn State experience truly shaped his involvement in international engineering and his current career trajectory. After adjusting to State College from his home in Cresco, he enrolled in both the engineering leadership development minor and the engineering entrepreneurship minor, two curriculum paths that helped him find his calling as a young entrepreneur. He also had the opportunity to work with Engineers Without Borders, and as a sophomore traveled with the organization to Sierra Leone to help construct a student-designed latrine. He eventually became president of the organization. He recalled, “I was intrigued by the management, humanitarian, and international aspects of engineering in other countries.”

As a result of this experience, Jared decided to spend the summer after his junior year living and working in rural Kenya, helping local individuals start their own businesses, bringing together his passion for international development and entrepreneurship. It was during his time that he realized he did not want to take a corporate job out of college and would instead focus on creating equal opportunities at life for all. He explained, “By creating a simple solar dehydrator and helping to form the plans for several small businesses, I saw room for innovation in the world of engineering and wanted to take on a new challenge in the world of entrepreneurship.”

Jared soon collaborated with Dustin Betz, a 2014 biology graduate, who had a vision of making food production available to everyone, especially for people in urban areas around the world. From these discussions, GreenTowers was born. The mission of Green Towers LLC, the business that Jared, Dustin and several other Penn State students co-founded is to provide everyone with the opportunity to grow their own food. To do so, Green Towers designs and creates high quality agricultural systems that are nearly maintenance free.

Their first project was a mobile aquaponic greenhouse, funded and supported by the Mechanical and Nuclear Innovation Challenge and the Agricultural Springboard. Jared and the GreenTowers team worked to transform a 20-foot shipping container into a functioning greenhouse which utilizes aquaponic technology (aquaculture and hydroponics), which gives them the ability to ship it anywhere in the world. Jared said, “We recently sent our first prototype of this greenhouse to a local farm, Greenmoore Gardens, where it will be used as an agricultural tool to supplement existing crop yields.”

Through designing and building the mobile greenhouse, Jared and his team quickly learned that the general public was interested in a smaller, more affordable urban agriculture option. They immediately began working through ideas to design a piece that could fit in a living room. These discussions soon yielded Living Furniture, the name given to the aquaponic tables Green Towers has created. 

The tables are made of solid cherry wood and glass, yet have a small aquarium in the bottom that provides nutrients for an area of plant growth on the top of the table. This unique design provides functional space, a considerable amount of urban gardening and an innovative addition to a home.

While Jared has achieved a great deal in his first few years in the professional world, he feels that his greatest accomplishment was having the confidence to pursue his own business after graduation, rather than accepting more traditional manufacturing and engineering employment opportunities.

Jared describes the most beneficial aspect of his Penn State engineering education as the professors and other faculty members who truly took the time to encourage, guide and advise each student in the program. Outside of the classroom, Jared feels that his extracurricular activities helped him grow as a person and professional. He attributes much of his success to Penn State, stating, “Penn State has given me more opportunities than I could have ever imagined.”

Last Updated December 03, 2014