How a Greenhouse Challenge connects China and the Netherlands in Food Security

What comes to mind first when considering triangles? Trigonometry? Triangular buildings? The Dutch delta region? Most likely, the Dutch way of working is not the first that comes to mind. However, the ‘Triple Helix’ model of the Netherlands is the key to innovation and business opportunities in many sectors. It’s based on the concept that cooperation between the government, businesses and knowledge institutes is of the essence. Today is World Food Day, which is the perfect moment to zoom in on an intitiative which aims to connect in the agricultural industry. With a Greenhouse Challenge...

Putting theory into practice

We speak with the Wageningen University, which has a long-standing cooperation with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) and has many Chinese alumni that come from CAU. This year they are hosting their second ‘Urban Greenhouse Challenge’. “Exploring and providing solutions for sufficient healthy and sustainably produced food is one of the key objectives. The challenge goes beyond sustainability and efficiency, it’s also about social responsibility and the business case,” explains Marta Eggers of the WUR and project officer of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge. “We aim to connect students to explore the opportunities and boundaries and put their concepts into daily practice.” Therefore, the University challenges students to come up with their own designs, concepts and technologies for an urban greenhouse.

Participating teams will be challenged to come up with a complete proposal. “We are looking for innovative, ‘outside the box’ thinking. How will one guarantee the production of food? What technology will be used? But also, how will you make the building sustainable and circular? And, how are you going to make it profitable or at least get your investment back?” And that’s not all: “We also asks participants to consider how to make the urban greenhouse a key element in the area. For instance by including city dwellers in the production of food, a restaurant which uses the fresh produce, or opening a yoga area on top of the building.”

Long-standing cooperation

The Urban Greenhouse Challenge was initiated last year, as part of the WUR’s 100 year anniversary. This was celebrated together with alumni-chapters throughout China and included a reception at the Netherlands Embassy in Beijing. “Celebrating Wageningen Universities’ 100 year anniversary here in China is very special to me. We are proud to be surrounded by all the Chinese alumni who carry Wageningen in their hearts and are our ambassadors here locally,” said Raoul Bino, Managing Director Wageningen Agrotechnology and Food Sciences Group.

The 2020 edition of the Greenhouse Challenge will, unsurprisingly, be hosted in China. In Dongguan to be more specific.  “The site is located in the Greater Bay Area, which is quickly developing and densely populated. In other words: the perfect location for a new approach to the production of foodin a rapidly urbanizing world. An urban project, but not within a too urbanized area. Not too much infra, but still a developed area,” Marta Eggers of the WUR and project lead of the Greenhouse Challenge. “We got in touch with the Chinese company Country Garden Agriculture. Our contact person is, no surprise, a Wageningen Alumni who introduced us to the site at Dongguan.”

About the Greenhouse Challenge

Interested in participating? Registration for teams is still open. A first kick-off will take place on October 15th, but registration for teams is open until the 31st. The Wageningen University is also still looking for partners. The best teams will be invited for a site visit, and partner companies will also get the chance to introduce themselves. The finals winner will be announced in June 2020. More information on the challenge, participating as a team or partner: www.urbangreenhousechallenge.nl