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"Research location for greenhouse vegetables and example for urban agriculture"

Belgium: Construction Agrotopia roof greenhouse to start in December

Greenhouse horticulture and industry don't necessarily need to compete for the sparse available space in urban environments. Belgium organisations Inagro and REO Veiling are proving this with an innovative project, joining forces to construct a future-oriented research unit for greenhouse vegetables on the roof of a REO Veiling warehouse in Roeselare in Belgium. Construction will start in December and should be finished in June, 2020.

REO Auction, Inagro, Province of West Flanders, META Architects, VBK Architects and contractor Persyn proudly present the project.

9,500 m2
A design competition decided the architectural design of the roof greenhouse. The 9,500 m² building will house high-tech research facilities for the production of fruit and leaf vegetables and provide an educational element for visitors.

The team of META Architects and Van Bergen Kolpa Architects, along with partners Smiemans, Tractebel Engineering and Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture, won the competition with a strong design called Agrotopia in which architecture and greenhouse horticulture technology go hand in hand. They are in charge of the realization and elaboration of the project and the supervision of the construction works.

"Agrotopia is a transparent unit of steel and glass", says Jago van Bergen from VBK Architects. "The light greenhouse construction that rests on the concrete foundation of the warehouse will strongly determine the architecture. For example, the roof greenhouse will become a green landmark along the ring around Roeselare."

Left to right: Niklaas Deboutte, META Architects - Jago van Bergen, VBK Architects - Bart Naeyaert, West Flemish deputy for Agriculture and Fisheries and chairman of Inagro.

Technical expertise paramount
Contractor Persyn has been appointed to realize the construction of the greenhouse. A number of subcontractors, including greenhouse builder Deforche Construct and greenhouse horticulture company Maïs Automatisering bring the necessary expertise in building and greenhouse horticulture techniques.

Due to the specific location on the roof of a warehouse and the integration of numerous innovative techniques, the project is technically complex. Many aspects were taken into account when selecting the contractor. "The necessary knowledge and experience are of course indispensable to bring such a complex project to a good end," explains Bart Naeyaert, chairman of Inagro.

"And although the cost factor plays an important role, we attached great importance to the technical value and the service offered," adds Peter Bleyaert, research leader in glass vegetables at Inagro. The technical value was assessed on the basis of climate control, energy management, lighting and hydroponics installations.

545 calendar days
The planning was also thoroughly studied. "During construction, activities in the existing building will continue uninterrupted. The construction site will see a lot of transport. It goes without saying that we also examined the planning and the project management," says Inagro.

Innovation in research and example of urban agriculture
The roof greenhouse must offer unique opportunities for research and innovation in greenhouse horticulture. At its existing location in Beitem, Inagro continues to focus on open field greenhouse cultivation. In the near future, research into hydroponic crops will move to Agrotopia. "We want to continue to connect ourselves as a knowledge partner to the logistics sector, the consumer and industrial partners. But of course the positive interaction with the market growers remains a priority," says director Mia Demeulemeester.

In addition, the building will serve as an example of the versatile use of vertical space in an urban environment. Research into urban agriculture will be opened up to the sector and other interested parties, and urban horticulture will have a prominent place in the skyline of Roeselare.

Photos: Inagro, META Architects, Van Bergen Kolpa Architects

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