The explosion in urban growth presents opportunities as well as challenges to, among others, our food systems. As a result, many cities are exploring how to create liveable and healthy environments for their citizens that also integrate sustainable ways to produce food.
To support these developments and explore the potential of urban farming, Wageningen University & Research (WUR) organizes an Urban Greenhouse Challenge every other year. For this challenge, students world-wide are invited to develop an urban farming business plan to be implemented in one of the world’s major metropoles.
A winner of a design by teAMSpirit
We’re proud to announce that “teAMSpirit”, a group of students from our master’s degree Metropolitan Analysis Design and Engineering (MADE), Urban Environmental Management and Plant Technology at WUR, and Architecture at TU Delft, not only took on WURs challenge...
After multiple challenging rounds, this multidisciplinary team has won third prize!
“Food systems are vital for a healthy society, but still very disconnected from the current default habitat of humans; the city. We see great value in integrating the two to ensure sustainable and healthy future living environments for all people across the world.”
Designing a greenhouse for a metropolitan area in China
This year, WUR challenged student teams from all over the world to design a business plan for an iconic and circular urban ‘greenhouse’ for a city in China. The requirements for the greenhouse are that it should:
- Produce safe and healthy food for the local neighborhood and commercial markets and;
- Stimulate a healthy lifestyle and interactions with city dwellers.
Furthermore, the concept should take social, economic, environmental and technical aspects into account. Ultimately, the winning design will provide inspiration for a new development project “the Marina Bay Center Agricultural Park”, situated in one of the world’s major metropoles: Guangdong in China.
“Especially the interdisciplinary nature of such a challenge is what inspires us. The crop system cannot work without a solid business model and the energy system cannot operate without a social plan.”
“In our first designs, the greenhouse resembled a turtle. Did you know that the Chinese culture turtles are among others seen as a symbol of wisdom, endurance, wealth, and long life?”
Three pillars that determine the Turtle identity
- Heritage and Innovation: The Turtle is rethinking the future by incorporating elements of Chinese tradition into its design and function. Innovation is found in the farming, educational practices, energy supply, and architectural choices. However, for every innovation, traditions and culture lie at its foundation;
- Society and Knowledge: The Turtle strives to be a bridge between cultures, practices and societies. More than just a building, The Turtle is a platform of various exchanges. Citizens learn from researchers, businesses collaborate with researchers, and the elderly and the young blend in together;
- Health and Transparency: The Turtle provides citizens with open spaces, living labs, social spaces, and a variety of activities to improve physical and mental health. Moreover, as a hub for innovation and knowledge, The Turtle seeks total transparency of its food process and scientific activity. A dialogue between researchers and citizens, as well as business collaborations enable this.
“By conducting a survey among Guangdong citizens and further in-depth research, we validated our assumptions. On this we built our identity, which consist of three main themes.”
A business concept that focuses on food production and circularity
The core business of The Turtle focuses on the production of local, sustainable and safe food. The second key activity is the green power plant, which makes The Turtle circular by producing energy, heat and fertilizer. The research institute will provide trustworthiness to customers and ensure that crop production is the most efficient and exemplary by continuous innovation. Interaction between the world of science and business is facilitated in The Turtle’s Green Business Hub.
High-tech innovation and knowledge will benefit the community through the Living Lab program. In these programs, citizens have the opportunity to actively engage in agriculture processes and participate in co-creation. In addition, people are directly connected to the research institute through the education facilities. incorporated into the building while keeping in mind the need for circularity, sustainability, and innovation.
“Urban food systems are a significant part of the solution to generate sufficient, fresh and healthy food for the growing world population in a future of climate change. It was really inspiring to talk with so many experts in the field of urban farming. Knowing that so many people are working on 'saving' the world and creating cities for the future gave us the feeling that we actually can achieve this.”
A Unique Selling Point: 4 seasons in one greenhouse
One of the unique selling points of this business plan is the fact that the students aim to design the urban greenhouse in such a way that all seasons will be simulated in 4 separate greenhouse pods. This creates 4 controllable environments for investigating seasonal crop-sequences. Therefore, this provides an excellent research opportunity to develop a resilient agricultural system including state-of-the-art technology and full circularity.
“To illustrate, our idea is to, among others, have citizens participate in the green exchange program facilitated by the greenhouse in which green waste is collected by citizens who in return receive crops grown in house. Also, the greenhouse facilitates a living lab platform where researchers and citizens connect technology with the societal context.”
Overall, the functions of their ‘greenhouse’ are tailored towards the societal context it is situated in. This means that the concept aims to facilitate societal functions, such as providing energy, food, and research insights. It does this by providing the following functions: a high-tech multi-season greenhouse, a R&D center, a living lab platform, a green power plant, facilitating co-creation between science and people, and an attractive shared space.
“Our team not only consisted of MSc MADE students, we also welcomed people from WUR and TU Delft. This experience created the unique situation that we have found a very diverse team that functions great together - project wise and personally. There's a synergy among us that made us improve our work over and over again. We realize how valuable it is to have this kind of network and we are curious to see what more can come from it.”
Onto next adventures
So, after a year of conceptualizing and developing this idea into a winner, what's next? Currently the team is exploring options how to continue with this business idea. Are you working on an idea for urban farming, and would you like to pick the brains of these entrepreneurs? Please reach out via:
AMS Institute is strongly committed to helping the next generation of ambitious urban and sustainable startups to turn their ideas into reality. Curious what we do to boost entrepreneurship and innovation within and for the city? These pages might spark your entrepreneurial spirits: