Babson resources help grow student’s tower gardens on campus

After 13 months of physical labor and networking, Connor Harbison MBA’22 has cultivated fresh herbs and gardening structures at Babson College this fall.

“We’re really trying to make them very visible,” Harbison, founder of startup Atlas Urban Farms, said of these pop-up hydroponic towers installed at prominent locations campuswide.

“Using this hydroponic technology,” Harbison said, “I can set up a garden, and garden it with 24 plants in about 40 minutes. I just have to have a plug, and that’s it.”

Harbison, a second-year graduate student, decided to pursue a hydroponic business venture upon coming to Babson last fall. During his first year on campus, Harbison started wondering, “If vertical farming is a thing, why do food deserts still exist?” he said. “It sort of got me started on this journey.”

In January 2021, “I started growing things in my apartment, mostly herbs, and I started an Instagram account,” said Harbison, a Boston resident from Philadelphia. Harbison previously toured a “cool” vertical farming site in Jackson, Wyoming, he says, but had never grown any plants or herbs before establishing Atlas Urban Farms.

Calling it a “laughably naïve way” of addressing food deserts, Harbison started building hydroponic towers at home with food-grade plastic before learning about the “super helpful” resources of the Weissman Foundry at Babson, he said. The foundry provided Harbison with the space, tools, and guidance to build his first hydroponic tower on campus, he said, and other Babson resources, especially its centers and institutes, helped him along the way.

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