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Rooftop greenhouse Agrotopia is taking shape

Little by little, the roof greenhouse on the crate shed of the REO Auction in Roeselare is taking shape. Compared to the very first visible work, there is already a real greenhouse on the roof, as greenhouse builder Deforche Construct shared recently. 

After the Christmas break, the construction team went back to work. The project is scheduled for June 2021, but the official opening is due August this year. After that, the greenhouse will be ready for the 'Festival of the Future' which will be held in Roeselare in September, they shared in a LinkedIn update

Stijn Cappon (Deforche Construct), Francis Vancraeynest (Deforche Construct), Johan Vermeulen (Maïs Automatisering) and Jago van Bergen (Van Bergen Kolpa Architects) at the laying of the first pile for the project in July 2019. Deforche is constructing the greenhouse, whilst Maïs Automatisering will take care of the technical completion of the greenhouse. Van Bergen Kolpa Architecten has designed the jagged façade and the twelve meter high greenhouse as a landmark.

Vegetable garden 
The REO Auction is located in the heart of West Flanders. "The vegetable garden of Western Europe", the initiators say. The rooftop greenhouse offers space for both leafy and fruiting vegetables. In co-creation projects, suppliers, knowledge institutes, governments, growers and technology companies are included in crop research. The first processes have already been set up, such as cultivation on water with densely sown crops and vertical farming.

All greenhouse departments will be equipped with LED artificial lighting and a specific climate control system that relies even more on all the knowledge of plant physiology. The greenhouse will be 8000 square meters and will be 8.4 meters separate from the first floor, on the roof of the crate shed.

Vertical cloths are used as shields between the departments, preventing light from radiating into the environment. This is particularly relevant when growing vertically. The rooftop greenhouse does not have its own heating installation: heat is provided by the municipal waste incinerator MIROM and by auction REO.

Festival of the Future
As was recently announced, the Province of West Flanders has chosen the rooftop greenhouse as the location for the 'Festival of the Future'. Three editions will take place between 2021 and 2025. The first edition is planned from 23 September to 3 October 2021.

A document with 'eye-catchers' from the multi-annual budget of the province reads: "At the foot of the rooftop greenhouse there will be built a universe of experience. During two weekends, the general public will be able to discover the agriculture, biodiversity and food of the future in an exciting journey through an export space. Besides, an attractive and widely accessible evening program will be prepared.

During the week, schools will also be involved, through original workshops. Workshops on computational learning for primary and secondary education, for instance, will be organized. The students will here learn to build a 'Mini-Agrotopia'".

According to the province, the project is characterized by an 'intensive co-creation course of the Province of West Flanders, Inagro, TUA West, POM West Flanders, PTI and the education expertise cell of the Province of West Flanders'. The West Flemish colleges VIVES and HOWEST also 'actively contribute' to the development of the Festival.

Some history
Dominiek Keersebilck of the REO Auction told more about Agrotopia in an interview that appeared earlier in Primeur. The arrival of the rooftop greenhouse is a new step in the history of the auction, he says. 

REO Veiling was founded on 20 July 1942 by 27 professional horticulturists from "Roeselare and surroundings" (REO). Due to WW II they had to wait until November 21, 1944 for the first auction day. The story of the REO Auction started in a small shed of a potato trader in the center of Roeselare. After that, the auction moved five times to cope with the increasing supply of horticultural products from West Flanders.

In 1978, REO auction introduced block sales. Also 1983 was an important year because in that year a simultaneous sale was organized with the Centrale voor Glasgroenten in Sint-Katelijne-Waver for the first time. In 1987 the board of directors decided to build a new and larger auction complex at the current address at the Oostnieuwkerksesteenweg. The new complex was taken into use on 1 April 1991 and officially inaugurated on 24 May.

Rooftop greenhouse
The old auction buildings on the Diksmuidsesteenweg made way for the current packaging department, and a new crate shed was built on the adjoining Vuylsteke site, which was put into use at the end of 2015. A rooftop greenhouse is currently being built on the roof of this packaging shed.

According to commercial director Dominiek Keersebilck, a lot has changed in recent years. "The REO Auction has seen an increase in turnover and the volume of product sold in recent years. Whereas we have achieved record sales in recent years, this will probably not happen this year due to the corona crisis. This in no way means that there will be no further development on our site. At the moment there is indeed the development of the rooftop greenhouse called "Agrotopia".

The rooftop greenhouse is meant for research and with this technical knowledge we want to anchor horticulture, here in West Flanders. Also space can be made for other forms of horticulture, such as vertical farming and urban crop. The rooftop greenhouse allows research into vertical horticulture along a wall of 12 meters high and in the meantime other innovative cultivation possibilities, such as the cultivation of leafy crops in containers, are also under consideration.”

This article originates from our Dutch magain Primeur - 

For more information:
REO Veiling  

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