Thirty market leaders power the Urban Greenhouse Challenge #3

December 3, 2021

For the third time market-leading companies and other key-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 University of the District of Columbia challenges students to come up with a concept for an urban farming site that has 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 neighbourhoods 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 model 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, 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 with 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.

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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 to and benefit from the Challenge in the area 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 realisation of cutting-edge solutions for vertical farming and greenhouse hydroponics. Among these are robotics, irrigation systems, sowing solutions, harvesting lines and modern hydroponic cultivation systems.

Networking is an important part of the game and will certainly help participants boost their careers

Also Signify, a global leader in the horticultural lighting market 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, that specialize in growing substrates, KUBO, that 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 industry-leading 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 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 outdoor part of the design. Consultancy firm Cauberg Huygen, offers expertise in building physics, sustainability, build quality, acoustics, safety and environment. Another partner, World of Walas, supplies 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.

A panorama view of East Capitol, the food hub this year's teams will be working on.
A panorama view of East Capitol, the food hub this year's teams will be working on.

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. The ‘Connected Circularity’ programme 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’ programme is to develop 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.

International visions and support

A lot goes into a Challenge to make it a success. This year, as a supporting partner, the Agricultural Office of the Dutch Embassy in Washington D.C. helped to establish the contacts in the USA and has greatly supported the Challenge from its very start. Also AVAG and Dutch Greenhouse Delta played an important role.

The Urban Greenhouse Challenge is officially recognized by the International Society of Horticultural Sciences, the world's leading independent organization of horticultural scientists, who is Vision Alliance partner for the second time in a row. They join GROOF and Eat This in a strong visionary alliance with the Challenge.

To get the message out, HortiDaily, and UrbanAgNews, major news outlets for horti sector in Europe and the USA respectively, are official media partners of the Challenge together with USA based consultancy Agritecture.

All partners look forward to new, out-of-the box ideas and lively interactions with young, ambitious and highly talented students participating in the Urban Greenhouse Challenge#3. WUR Student Challenges welcomes their partnership and is proud to have so many excellent partners on board.