Developing the urban greenhouse of the future is the aim of an innovation contest being organised by Wageningen University & Research in the autumn of 2017. Teams of students from across the globe will be able to participate in the challenge, while governments, companies and non-profit organisations who wish to join as partners or have specific research questions are also more than welcome.
“We believe in urban agriculture,” says Rio Pals, coordinator of the student challenge. “Urban agriculture may not resolve the global food issue, but it can relieve problems related to the food supply in major cities. In addition, it benefits liveability and social cohesion in cities, and may stimulate people to healthier eating. We want to contribute to wholesome and sustainable cities by taking urban agriculture to the next level and providing innovations and new concepts for parties with an interest in urban agriculture.”
Students from across the globe
The challenge is open to university and higher vocational students from around the world. It sets them the task of designing a vertical farm that brings professional food production to an urban environment and stimulates the sustainable production and consumption of healthy food among residents. Pals: “The concepts should be as circular as possible with regard to water, energy, CO2, and the use of nutrients, and with as few ‘food miles’ as possible. Moreover, it is important to us that the greenhouse and associated production systems actually make a social contribution to the neighbourhood. Finally, the students must provide a well-founded business case. We are looking for innovative submissions that are technically, socially and economically feasible.”
For the purposes of the challenge, Pals is looking for partners who wish to contribute to the development of different aspects of urban agriculture: “We are meeting with municipalities that see the challenge as a way to boost urban agriculture in their cities. We are also looking to team up with private parties who see other opportunities, such as energy providers, greenhouse and horticultural companies and logistic partners. Last but not least, we want to connect with non-profit organisations that can help with the social or environmental embedding of urban agriculture. Any contribution is welcome, from sponsoring to the provision of knowledge and expertise. In exchange, the companies will be able to draw on inspiring, achievable concepts and innovations for urban agriculture, and come into contact with ambitious, talented students who will soon be joining the labour market.”
Winner to be announced in August 2018
Student teams can register in October 2017. A digital platform will be launched soon that will allow them to establish contacts and create interdisciplinary teams. Later in the year, Wageningen University & Research will organise a matchmaking event for students and partners of the challenge. The team presentations and announcement of the winning concept by the jury are planned for late August 2018. The grand prize? Pals: “I can’t say too much about it yet, but our aim is to actually bring the winning concept to life.”