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Finals of 'Design the Ultimate Greenhouse':

Profitability main challenge for urban farming projects

That urban farming projects are beautiful is usually not up for discussion, but are they also feasible? That remains a problem and therefore also an important one in the Design the Ultimate Urban Greenhouse Challenge. The competition revolves around the green re-use of the former Bijlmer prison and was organized by Wageningen University and Research. Students from all corners of the world participated. On Tuesday, August 28, the grand finale of the challenge took place in Wageningen.

View the photo report here.

Expert and critical eyes
More than 40 teams started the challenge a year ago, and 14 of them were in the final this week where they had to pitch their idea to an expert jury. The jury, consisting of Aart Oxenaar (Monuments and Archeology Amsterdam), Nona Yehia (Vertical Harvest), Jago van Bergen (Van Bergen Kolpa Architects), Beatrix Alsanius (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) and Michiel Klompenhouwer (Rabobank) studied the creative plans with an expert and critical eye.

Nevin Cohen

The morning before the grand finale was filled with a symposium on Urban Greenhouses and the Future of Food. Ernst van der Ende, general director of the Plant Sciences Group of the WUR, kicked off the event. Then the word was given to Nevin Cohen, a researcher at City University of New York. He took the audience with him in his vision of urban farming in city planning. Whereas financiers believe that city gardens aren't a lucrative business, according to Nevin these initiatives certainly add value to the whole of the district. The social aspect makes people involved in their neighborhood and that prevents lower income residents from being pushed out by project developers with big plans.

Gert Spaargaren, Nona Yehia and Jan-Willem van der Schans.

Urban farming in the Nederlands
In a subsequent panel discussion, the question arose to what extent urban farming in the Netherlands can be a success. With the traditional Westland you simply cannot compete, and for the Bijlmer Bajes a plan has to be made that distinguishes itself in production and function.

The teams promote their plans

Is urban farming profitable in the Netherlands?
The break-out session in which the profitability of urban farming was central, was well attended. Does Urban Farming have a future in the Netherlands? Opinions were divided. Michiel Klompenmaker from Rabobank was skeptical. "So far, I have not come across a really good business model in the market, because the consumer is not prepared to pay a large additional price." If the cost price is so high, you have to add value, and the student teams are working out options. One did so by focusing on the cultivation of exotic products, the other by integrating a complete food chain. Recurring elements were energy saving and the location of the Bijlmer prison in the neighborhood.

After the presentation of creative ideas from the students and the critical feedback of the jury members, it was time for the award ceremony. The big winner was team GreenWURks with their Open Bajes. A plan that not only worked well together in terms of architecture and food production, but also gave a lot of attention to the financial feasibility. View the concept here:
Next horticultural competition
The ending of one match also means the start of the next one. In the new Autonomous Greenhouses Challenge, five teams aim to have a greenhouse operating as autonomously as possible. By using artificial intelligence, they will have to grow the best possible cucumber crop with the least possible human influence on water, food and energy, for example.

Among the five selected teams is the Dutch team the Croperators. The collaboration between Delphy and AgroEnergy allows data scientists, crop experts and product developers to work together.

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