For the third time, companies and other players in urban food production join the Urban Greenhouse Challenge. As Challenge partners they will provide coaching and feedback to the teams, helping them to accelerate and bring their initial idea to the next level.
This year’s edition is all about creating social impact. Wageningen University & Research in collaboration with the University of the District of Columbia challenges students to come up with a concept for an urban farming site that has the potential to become a catalyst for social change. The winning entry should integrate food production with a feasible business model and outstanding design while serving one of the most diverse low-income neighborhoods of Washington D.C.
More than 260 students from twenty countries and more than 70 universities took up the challenge. They have formed thirty diverse teams to tackle everything from design to horticulture and business models.
Thanks to a unique collaboration with partners from businesses and institutions leading the way in urban farming, those students will get the opportunity to consult top experts in this field on wide-ranging issues, such as indoor and open field food production technologies, 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 broad palette of horticultural expertise
Thanks to its name in the horticulture world, the third edition of the Challenge attracted numerous partners active in this sector.
Two recurring partners are Priva and Parus Europe who in 2020 joined 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 growing. Urban Greenhouse Challenge fits well their vision of tying food, energy, water, and living environments together that the company initiated with the ‘Sustainable Urban Delta’ initiative.
Parus Europe provides LED solutions for horticulture, indoor farming, and the work & lifestyle market. Building on their positive experience with teams who participated in the Urban Greenhouse Challenge#2, they are excited to guide and inspire this year’s students again.
Vertical Farm Institute, an independent research and design consultancy, has also been involved in the previous edition of the Challenge. In 2020 Tiffany Tsui, the Chief Strategy Officer of VFI presided the jury of the competition. This year VFI joins as a partner to contribute and benefit from the Challenge in the areas of bridging the interdisciplinary knowledge of architecture and agriculture.
This edition of the Challenge also brings many new collaborations. Artechno Growsystems is an engineering company engaged in the development and realization of cutting-edge solutions for vertical farming and greenhouse hydroponics. Among there are robotics, irrigation systems, sowing solutions, harvesting lines and modern hydroponic cultivation systems.
Also Signify is new to the Challenge. Their team of experts ranging from plant specialists to lighting experts and business advisors is excited to share their knowledge and experience with mind-alike students.
Among other partners well-established in the horticulture sector are Jiffy Products and Van der Knaap, which specialize in growing substrates, KUBO has been building and managing complete greenhouses for more than 77 years, and Modiform that develops growing, transport, and packaging systems for the horticultural sector and beyond.
The Hawthorne Gardening Company, a systems specialist for greenhouses and indoor farming established in 1976, brings brands for growers of all sizes, from commercial needs to home hobbyists. Their products include lighting, nutrients, growing environment, growing media, hardware, and more.
Coaches for every aspect of the challenge
With such an exquisite selection of coaching partners active in the horticultural sector, there is no doubt that the teams will get enough support in developing the indoor part of their concepts. With the rest of their assignment, they can count on Challenge partners from other sectors.
BO Akkerbouw specializes in open-land cultivation and is well-positioned to give feedback on the outdoor part of the design. A consultancy firm Cauberg Huygen offers expertise in building physics, sustainability, build quality, acoustics, safety, and environment. Another partner, World of Walas, supply relevant expertise in sustainable urban development. Not to mention, First Farms from Denmark, a producer of pig, milk, and crops for animal feed offers their knowledge, about food production and business development in a broad sense. There really are coaches available for every aspect of the concepts the teams will be developing during the challenge.
Strong support from within Wageningen University & Research
Also from within Wageningen University & Research comes support for the Challenge. Wageningen Ambassadors, a panel of WUR graduates who now occupy important posts in industry and public institutions worldwide, is the Impact Partner of the Challenge for the third time in a row. The Challenge enables them to realize their ambition to educate top talent and enhance 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 University Fund Wageningen and fits its mission to contribute to excellent education and research in Wageningen.
In addition, two investment themes of the Wageningen University & Research take part in the Challenge. ‘Connected Circularity’ program aims to facilitate collaboration with farmers, industry, government, and other stakeholders to make the transition towards a circular bio-economy as concrete as possible. The goal of the ‘Health and Safe Food Systems’ program is to develop the knowledge needed to improve the health benefits and safety of our food system, from different perspectives and by taking into account its complexity and related sustainability issues.