For the third time, companies and other players in urban food production are joining the Urban Greenhouse Challenge. As partners of the Challenge, they will provide coaching and feedback to the teams, helping them to accelerate and take their initial idea to the next level.
This year’s edition aims to create social impact. Wageningen University and research, in collaboration with the University of the District of Columbia, challenge students to come up with a concept for an urban agricultural site that has the potential to become a catalyst for social change. The winning entry is expected to integrate food production with a workable business model and exceptional design while serving one of Washington DC’s most diverse low-income neighborhoods.
Over 260 students from twenty countries and over 70 universities took up the challenge. They formed thirty diverse teams to tackle everything from design to horticulture and business models.
Through a unique collaboration with partners from companies and institutions at the forefront of urban agriculture, these students will have the opportunity to consult the best experts in this field on large-scale issues, such as indoor and field food production, business models, and market trends. As in the previous two editions of the Challenge, networking is an important part of the game and will certainly help participants boost their careers.
A wide range of horticultural know-how
Thanks to its name in the horticultural world, the third edition of the Challenge has attracted many partners active in this sector.
Two recurring partners are Priva and Parus Europe who joined in 2020 the second edition of this student competition. Priva is a global high-tech company that develops and produces innovative solutions for sustainable climate control and process management in horticulture, the built environment and indoor cultivation. Urban Greenhouse Challenge fits well with their vision of linking food, energy, water and living environments that the company initiated with the “Sustainable Urban Delta” initiative.
Parus Europe provides LED solutions for horticulture, indoor agriculture, and the workplace and lifestyle market. Building on their positive experience with the teams that participated in the Urban Greenhouse Challenge # 2, they are delighted to guide and inspire this year’s students once again.
Vertical Farm Institute, an independent research and design firm, also participated in the previous edition of the Challenge. In 2020, Tiffany Tsui, Chief Strategy Officer of VFI chaired the competition jury. This year, VFI is joining forces as a partner to contribute and benefit from the Challenge in the fields of bringing together interdisciplinary knowledge of architecture and agriculture.
This edition of the Challenge also brings many new collaborations. Artechno Growsystems is an engineering company committed to the development and realization of cutting-edge solutions for vertical agriculture and greenhouse hydroponics. These include robotics, irrigation systems, seeding solutions, harvest lines, and modern hydroponics systems.
Signify is also new to the challenge. Their team of experts, ranging from plant specialists to lighting experts and business advisers, are delighted to share their knowledge and experience with passionate students.
Other well-established partners in the horticultural sector include Jiffy Products and Van der Knaap, specializing in growing media, KUBO has been building and managing complete greenhouses for over 77 years, and Modiform which has been developing cultivation, transport systems and packaging for the horticultural sector and beyond.
The Hawthorne Gardening Company, a specialist in greenhouse and indoor farming systems established in 1976, offers brands for growers of all sizes, from commercial needs to hobbyists. Their products include lighting, nutrients, growing environment, growing media, equipment, etc.
Coaches for every aspect of the challenge
With such an exquisite selection of coaching partners active in the horticulture sector, there is no doubt that teams will receive enough support to develop the inner part of their concepts. For the rest of their mission, they can count on Challenge partners from other sectors.
BO Akkerbouw specializes in outdoor cultivation and is in a good position to comment on the exterior part of the design. The consulting firm Cauberg Huygen offers expertise in building physics, sustainability, construction quality, acoustics, safety and the environment. Another partner, World of Walas, provides relevant expertise in sustainable urban development. Not to mention, First Farms of Denmark, a producer of pork, milk and animal feed crops, offers knowledge on food production and business development at large. There really are coaches available for every aspect of the concepts teams will develop during the challenge.
Strong support from Wageningen University and research
Wageningen University and Research also support the Challenge. Wageningen Ambassadors, a panel of WUR alumni who now hold prominent positions in industry and public institutions around the world, are the Challenge’s impact partner for the third time in a row. The Challenge allows them to achieve their ambition to train the best talents and improve their entrepreneurial skills. They actively support the Challenge by providing coaching, visibility and resources to organize this initiative. This collaboration is made possible by the Wageningen University Fund and is part of its mission to contribute to excellence in teaching and research at Wageningen.
In addition, two investment themes from Wageningen University & Research are participating in the Challenge. The Connected Circularity program aims to facilitate collaboration with farmers, industry, government and other stakeholders to make the transition to a circular bioeconomy as concrete as possible. The objective of the Health and Safe Food Systems program is to develop the knowledge necessary to improve the health and safety benefits of our food system, from different angles and taking into account its complexity and associated sustainability issues.