In spite of the coronavirus, the Urban Greenhouse Challenge is in full swing. The teams are still working hard on their design of an urban greenhouse for the Chinese city of Dongguan – from a distance. Meanwhile, they’re being supported by one of the many coaches who are kindly provided by our partners. It’s time to meet those partners: who are they and why are they helping to make this Student Challenge possible?
Working the field
To many of our 30 partners, supporting the Urban Greenhouse Challenge almost comes natural. Some have been involved in the agri food business for decades, if not longer. Rabobank, one of the largest banks in the Netherlands, was founded more than a century ago by horticulturists and farmers. Rural activities and the Food and Agri sector still play a prominent role in its international operations. Rabobank is a loyal and highly valued partner as they were one of the first to support the first edition of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge in 2018 and have kept supporting us through to this second edition.
Other companies are also directly affiliated with the topic of this Student Challenge. As the name suggests, China-based Country Garden Agricultural Holding is involved in the development of agricultural parks, and as such is the developer of the site on which the teams base their designs and innovations. They have provided essential data, info and images to the teams, and have responded tirelessly to the questions that students posed.
Agritecture, based in New York City, started out as a blog in 2011. It is now on the forefront of commercial urban agriculture, providing designs and consulting services. Back in the Netherlands, Codema Systems develops essential custom-made horticulture solutions. Closed irrigation systems, for example, that recirculate every single drop of water.
Connecting with talent
But our partners aren’t just interested in the subject matter of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge. They’re also motivated by the students themselves. Codema Systems, for example, has provided no less than six coaches to our teams! Connecting with talent is very important to Codema: ‘Working together with the next generation is essential for our company. Young, talented and innovative people are our inspiration and our way forward in order to realize what we believe in.’
The Urban Greenhouse Challenge provides students with the opportunity to gain invaluable experience and to contribute to something that has real impact on society. This is an important asset for many of our partners. The University Fund Wageningen, for example, takes a big interest in student activities. It has a long tradition of supporting Wageningen students and the university itself, and the Student Challenges bring these objectives together in a very nice way.
The same goes for the Wageningen Ambassadors, a group of prominent Wageningen University & Research (WUR) alumni: ‘We support the Student Challenges because it provides an experience for students to apply the knowledge gained in their studies to real-life problems. In this way, the challenges form a link between study and career.’
The future of food
Finally, all our partners recognize that the world is facing many challenges when it comes to nutrition and agriculture. How can we sustainably feed the growing world population? It is a question that matters greatly to OnePlanet Research Center, for example. OnePlanet, a multidisciplinary collaboration agreement between WUR, Radboud University, Radboud UMC and IMEC, was established to bring ideas, people and technology together to work on a healthier planet for everyone.
Other partners have echoed these ideas. Rabobank wants to help spur innovative and technological solutions to confront food challenges. Country Garden sees the Urban Greenhouse Challenge as ‘an inspiring event to promote sustainability in urban development and agriculture production by encouraging innovations in the young generations.’ Agritecture is looking to spread its own vision ‘of a world where commercial urban agriculture is economically feasible, reduces the environmental impact of the food system and improves food security.’
Surely the student teams are also hoping to contribute to this. For now, they can focus their attention on the Urban Greenhouse Challenge and our partners will help them on their way.