CYstarters Spotlight Story: Filtraponics

This story is part of a series featuring each of the fourteen startups in the CYstarters 2021 summer cohort. Each team has the opportunity to focus on their startup or business idea while receiving $6,500 or up to $13,000, along with mentorship, accountability, and educational sessions on how to build a business.

By Samantha Dilocker, ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship

Founded by Iowa State University student Isaac Bradford, Filtraponics teaches students of all ages sustainability by utilizing fish and plants to demonstrate the nitrogen cycle, food webs, and more, with hands-on educational aquaponics.

Get to know: Isaac Bradford

Age: 19

Education: Agricultural Engineering Major at Iowa State

Passionate about: Family, sustainability, and the outdoors

Most recently I: Started a business!


Currently working on: Filtraponics

When did you start working on Filtraponics?
Technically, it was eighth grade! It was a little bit different, or a lot different, but the idea is still the same.


Have you always seen yourself starting something?
I always thought of creating something. What my mom would tell you is that I was always trying to invent something. I always thought I would create something, but I didn’t think it would be so soon. I always thought, “When I’m out of college!” but Iowa State has phenomenal resources, more than I’ve seen anywhere else.


Why Filtraponics?
When I was a kid, I had seen a few episodes of Doomsday Preppers. There was an episode where a family made an aquaponics system to sustain themselves. I wanted to improve upon that.


How have you grown since you started?
I’ve learned so much! I have a better idea of how I can adapt Filtraponics to help educate the world and make sure it has a more significant impact.


What future milestones would you like to hit?
I want to have a larger system in a school then eventually install one in a home. I want to move out of state with my business! That’s a major goal.


What is the biggest challenge you face each day?
Time! It’s hard to manage my time between school and clubs and my business. The only thing you’re able to chip away at is sleep, which is never ideal. 


How has entrepreneurship at Iowa State impacted you?
It makes me feel like I’m doing something already rather than waiting to get out of college! I get to impact the world, but not on such a large scale yet. It also teaches me a lot of aspects of the world that I didn’t expect to learn so soon.


What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student?
Get involved in the things that you enjoy! You’re getting involved and having fun but also being productive! But also get some sleep.


Where are you headed? And how would you invite others to join you?
I’m headed towards educating students to better understand sustainability. I would invite other like-minded people to join me in my journey of spreading the message.

You can reach Isaac and Filtraponics at: