Urban Greenhouse Challenge'2

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Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2 Taking urban farming in China’s Greater Bay Area to the next level

Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2 Taking urban farming in China’s Greater Bay Area to the next level

© 2020 Wageningen University & Research All rights reserved: no part of this document may be reproduced, stored in an automated database, or published in any form or by any means, be it electronic, mechanical, by photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Publisher:

Wageningen University & Research (studentchallenges@wur.nl)

Texts: UGC’2 participants, Nicolien van ‘t Wout Hofland (WUR), Koen Janssen (WUR), Jan Jacob Mekes (Hortidaily) Editing:

Sara Butler


Archive of the interviewees and teams (unless otherwise indicated)


GAW, Marieke Eijt



We thank our partners and sponsors for their generous contributions. Their support has been invaluable in making the Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2 an unforgettable and inspirational event, educating the game changers of the future and contributing to innovations for a sustainable future. Impact partners

Vision partners

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Supporting partners

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Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2

Strategic partners

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Table of Contents A word from the Rector


Looking back at the second edition


Meet the jury


UGC’2 through the eyes of teams and coaches


Concepts Team AIGreen | Herbtopia 14 Spicing up the food experience

Coexist | Shennong’s Farmers 16 Old legend becomes a metaphor for modern urban farming

Green Rhapsody | The Cube 18 Nearly perfect solution to today’s problems

InnerCity | LEGO Greenhouse 20 Revolutionising urban food production

Northwest A&F University Tea


Fall into sustainable urban agriculture

Team Argos


Prioritising healthy and safe food

Team Bagua | The Bagua Farmers 26 Embracing change and the flow of nature to create the Great Food Transformation

KAS | KAS greenhouse 28 Securing the future for smallholder farmers, rural-urban migrants and consumers

Team USP | Cora 30 Rethinking the normal

TeAMSpirit | The Turtle


Leading the way to the food of tomorrow Partners about the Challenge


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2 | Table of Contents


Word from the Rector

Rethinking food systems in booming cities The year 2020 is not turning out like most of us expected. With Covid-19 sweeping across the world, our daily lives have been disrupted gravely. This pandemic is likely to have major and long-lasting implications, forcing us to rethink the way we organise our society. It will increase the sense of urgency to act and work towards a healthy, sustainable and equitable future. And that will include the need for more resilient food systems to supply our booming urban populations. Research into new forms of food production is essential, and systems such as indoor farming and urban greenhouses can help tackle the many issues cities face in feeding their urban dwellers. Exploring the potential of these systems and developing new concepts is precisely what we aim for with our Urban Greenhouse Challenge.

Inspiring young talent As a leading institution in agriculture, food sciences and environmental sciences, we set out to educate and inspire young people to become the changemakers for a sustainable and resilient future. We provide them with the knowledge and skills to contribute to key global transitions. This Challenge is one of the ways to achieve this. Fifty-three teams with nearly five hundred students from seventy-nine different universities in twentyeight countries started on this journey at the end of 2019. After just under ten months, ten teams made it to the finals.

Innovative solutions for Pearl River Delta I am very proud of the students that have participated in the second edition of our Urban Greenhouse Challenge. They have developed amazing concepts and innovations for feeding the fast-growing urban population in China’s Pearl River Delta, where there is an ever-decreasing availability of arable land. Food will be produced right in the middle of one of the biggest metropolitan areas in the world, including the mega-cities of Shenzhen, Dongguan, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. I am full of admiration for the teams who kept going in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and didn’t give up, despite the difficulties. Congratulations to you on your creativity, hard work and persistence!


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2 | Word from the Rector

Joining hands to create change Collaboration is key in countering the global challenges we all face, and this project is no exception. It has been a joint effort on the part of my colleagues at Wageningen University & Research and our partners from around the world. I am very grateful for their support. I would like to mention specifically our host partner Country Garden Agriculture and long-term supporters Rabobank, University Fund Wageningen and the Wageningen Ambassadors. Thank you so much! I hope the content of this magazine will provide inspiration to anyone interested in feeding cities sustainably. Arthur Mol Rector Magnificus/Vice President of the Executive Board Wageningen University & Research

Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2 | Word from the Rector


Looking back at the second edition Text: Jan Jacob Mekes, HortiDaily

“The team really enjoyed the moments with the coaches. We definitely learned a lot!”

Site location

The arena

First selection round

For the second edition of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge, student teams were asked to develop an urban greenhouse in Dongguan, China. The contracts for the Binahi Central Agricultural Park Complex were signed in February 2019, after which local authorities and private companies joined forces to shape the park, the arena for the Challenge. The Park developer Country Garden Agriculture is one of the Challenge partners and has declared its intention to realise the winning design, budget and vision permitting. ‘This challenge is a perfect match with Country Garden’s vision (...) By sponsoring this challenge we show (...) that we are a company that has a responsibility for better life in the future,’ were the words of Liu Shi, the vice president of Country Garden Agriculture.

At the beginning of January 2020, the Challenge’s Selection Committee chose twenty of the first milestone entries to continue to the second round. The Committee had a hard time selecting the teams. ‘I really enjoyed doing it, but it was also difficult,’ said Committee member Sigrid Wertheim-Heck.

Covid-19 In February 2020, the Covid-19 epidemic broke out in China, making it impossible to organise the visit to the Challenge location. As more and more countries closed their borders in an attempt to curb the spread of the disease, Wageningen University decided to continue the Challenge, but make it online.

Kick-off The Challenge was officially opened on 15 October 2019. Jury chair Tiffany Tsui, an independent consultant, struck the gong that sent 53 teams from 79 universities in 29 countries on their journey towards designing the ideal urban greenhouse. ‘The kick-off was a real spectacle, a great start. The room was packed with international researchers and students and you could feel that there was a lot of enthusiasm,’ recalled Jan Westra of Priva, who attended the event.

Virtual speed-dates In the next phase of the competition, the student teams were able to consult professional coaches through online speeddates. Despite remaining in their own homes, both students and coaches were thrilled with the sessions. ‘The team really enjoyed the moments with the coaches. We definitely learned a lot!’ said Camilla Grande Degaspari, one of the students in Team USP.

Online masterclass

Announcement of the finalists


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2 | Looking back

Kick-off event

Virtual speed-dates


Grand Finale

Throughout the Challenge, the teams not only received online support from their coaches, they also gained some welcome practical knowledge through a series of webinars. Ranging from circular rooftop greenhouses to smart aquaponics systems and the cultivation of unusual crops in greenhouses, the students found plenty of inspiration in these webinars. The highlight was the Masterclass – Urban Greenhouse Live Event 2020 on 8 April during which Tiffany Tsui, Joris Lohman (of FoodHub) and Imre Vellenga (of Society Impact) shared their insights on urban farming and answered questions from students who called in. ‘I really appreciated all three lectures! They brought us a lot of ideas and things to think about,’ was one participant’s reaction.

During the final phase of the competition, the teams did an intensive pitch training to help them shine at the Grand Finale. On the morning of 27 August, the finalists entered the Dragon’s Den and presented their concepts to the Jury. In the afternoon, the final three teams presented their vision on urban farming and received their awards from Tiffany Tsui. Students and Partners can now look back on a successful though extra challenging edition of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge. ‘Thank you for this opportunity. It was an extreme pleasure and a great learning experience for me,’ said Derick Jiwan, one of the coaches. HortiDaily was the official media partner for the second edition of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge. This news outlet specialises in the hor-

Finalists announced

ticulture sector and Jan Jacob Mekes followed the Challenge closely,

In June 2020, the first long wait for the twenty teams was over. The ten finalists were announced at an online event. All the teams’ hard work resulted in concepts that combined agriculture and architecture to create some fascinating projects, offering a glimpse of how the future of urban farming might look. Selection Committee member Wenqing Jin admitted after reading the reports: ‘I was really surprised by some great designs’.

posting a series of articles on HortiDaily.com. ‘It’s been great to see how enthusiastic the teams and organisers have been, making it a joy to follow and cover the challenge! Following the webinars was very educational – the wide range of interesting subjects really added value to an already fascinating challenge. The Urban Greenhouse Challenge offers a unique glimpse into the future of urban farming. I’m looking forward to seeing how the teams’ concepts will be used in practice.’ Jan Jacob summarised his Challenge experience.

“Thank you for this opportunity. It was an extreme pleasure and a great learning experience for me.”

Pitch training

Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2 | Looking back


Meet the jury

Tiffany Tsui

Tao Li

Cindy van Rijswick

Tiffany Tsui has a long career in green development and works as an independent advisor for governments, companies and universities. Her biggest strength is connecting interdisciplinary topics. Tsui considers herself ‘the spider in the web’. In addition, she is a co-founder of Novafresh+, a venture focusing on sustainable supply chains and urban food production.

Tao Li is a plant researcher with a background in plant physiology. After spending a great deal of his time in greenhouses during his PhD at Wageningen University & Research, he moved back to China. Li now works for the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) where he focusses on lighting in greenhouses.

Cindy van Rijswick studied economics and now applies this knowledge at the Food and Agribusiness Research of Rabobank Group in Utrecht. She focusses on the market development of fresh produce like fruit and vegetables. In addition, Van Rijswick advises companies about strategic development, such as expansion possibilities. For some years now, she has been involved in urban and vertical farming projects, which led her to the Urban Greenhouse Challenge.

“The key is to build the concept around one main question, to which all disciplines then contribute” ‘Each jury member of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge has his or her own expertise and I judge the interdisciplinary totality: how different aspects work together as a whole. That might be the hardest challenge for students: bringing all disciplines together into one concept. Especially since architecture students, for example, are trained very differently from biology students. The key is to build the concept around one main question, to which all disciplines then contribute. Sometimes teams paste together concepts that they think the jury will like, but then the common thread – and their ideals – are missing. That shows. In addition to a good proposal, teams must “sell” their idea by establishing their own characteristics and emotional connection with the audience. Some teams did that very well, for example by creating their own photos and images to give the concept more authenticity. That can help bring a concept to life.’


Text: Nicole van ‘t Wout Hofland, Wageningen University & Research

“Overall I am very impressed by the urban greenhouse designs of the student teams” ‘Overall I am very impressed by the urban greenhouse designs of the student teams. One of the things I hope I taught the students is that, while species diversity in small urban farms is good, each species requires different growing conditions and management procedures. That could complicate the food production system and result in high running costs. Some teams did take this into consideration: they propose to grow mushrooms on a lower floor, where less light is available, and cultivate crops that need a lot of light on the rooftop. I was also happy to see that all finalists included circularity in their concept. One team even proposed growing mushrooms on coffee waste. I’ve never heard about this before and I think it is an excellent idea.’

Urban Greenhouse GreenhousesChallenge’2 and the Future | Jury of Food | Jury

“I enjoyed seeing how students tackled the urban greenhouse project in a completely different way than I see at my job”

‘I think urban farming is an excellent subject for a student challenge. It’s hot, especially amongst the younger generation all over the world. Moreover, it connects disciplines such as architecture, agriculture, social aspects and business. I enjoyed seeing how students tackled the urban greenhouse project in a completely different way than I see in my job. Sometimes, their concepts are a bit too idealistic though. An urban greenhouse design can be all kinds of fancy, but if it’s not going to make any profit, banks will not invest. As a jury member I try to take the economic feasibility of the projects into account, to make it “real”. But although I focus on the business side of the plans, I must confess I do have a soft spot for the look and feel of the designs.’

Chris Monaghan

Sigrid Wertheim-Heck

Martin Probst

Chris Monaghan is the innovation and ventures director at Metabolic, a company focusing on sustainability and the circular economy. Metabolic consults for companies, governments and NGOs on how to create sustainable strategies and address critical challenges by creating new ventures. Monaghan is an expert in circular economy, sustainability, team building, and creating business models for new organisations.

Dr Sigrid Wertheim-Heck is a researcher in consumption sociology at Wageningen University & Research and professor in food and healthy living at the applied university Aeres. She focusses on the transition towards more sustainable food systems and studies the relationship between metropolitan development, food provisioning and food consumption. Wertheim-Heck worked and lived in Asia for several years, during which she experienced local conditions.

Martin Probst is an architect and urban planner at the international architectural company MLA+. As an urban planner, Probst does not focus on one single building, but takes cities, streets and public areas into consideration.

“During the challenge, some teams impressed me by taking circularity to the next level”

‘I joined the Urban Greenhouse Challenge because I am passionate about agri-food topics and I really like the set-up of the challenge: an international competition where students design an urban greenhouse for an existing piece of land. During the challenge, some teams impressed me by taking circularity to the next level. They did not just consider the greenhouse as a closed system, but as a gearwheel in a larger system: the neighbourhood or broader community. Their plans include processing waste and turning it into chemicals and proteins for the surrounding area. While most teams focussed on food sales, some made their urban greenhouse a site for R&D, technological innovation, or education. I think that is a smart business plan, which can be profitable. And that kind of activity is important too: it has to be more than a pretty building.’

“The brilliant ideas formed during this competition stress the importance of such challenges” ‘I have embraced the Urban Greenhouse Challenge from day one. It offers a great opportunity for students: they are confronted with the strength of their own knowledge and learn to apply it in conjunction with other disciplines. That way students develop teamwork skills. The brilliant ideas formed during this competition stress the importance of such challenges. One team for example came up with a great idea to encourage social change. In Asia, farming has a low social status and is looked down on. They presented their greenhouse not as an alternative to traditional farming, but as an instrument to reunite farmers and city dwellers. Their greenhouse highlights the importance of farming and presents novel technologies in the field. With their concept they want to make farmers proud of their profession and make farming trendy.’

“That is one of the reasons why I enjoy these competitions: students have an open mind and a fresh outlook on life and the future”

‘The urban greenhouses designed by the student teams are one piece of a bigger picture: the greenhouse is part of a park, which is part of a new area, which is part of a city. I was happy to see that some teams were very aware of that and tried to connect their greenhouse to the surrounding area. Some even considered the big impact of China on the world – and the future of the planet – and tried to contribute in a positive way. That is one of the reasons why I enjoy these competitions: students have an open mind and a fresh outlook on life and the future. The next step is to sell the novel idea. I noticed that students still need to learn how to present their idea attractively. It is important to grab your audience’s attention within the first two minutes, or you will lose them completely. Visual presentations, rather than large pieces of text, could help with that.’

Urban Greenhouses Urban Greenhouse and the Future Challenge’2 of Food | Jury


UGC’2 through the eyes of teams and coaches Text: Koen Janssen, Wageningen University & Research

Pixel farming, plant factories, a building in the shape of a turtle…the teams participating in the Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2 (UGC’2) presented their diverse range of concepts with inspiring visuals and videos. But what went on behind the curtains? Two team captains and two coaches shared their experiences of a unique Student Challenge. Lighting the flame In the summer of 2019, Orfeas Voutsinos was very eager to join the Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2. He made plans with two friends who were following a master’s degree in Wageningen and other students joined them. The team ended up with 15 members, all from Greece. ‘They are from different universities and different departments but they all have a certain passion, a flame inside,’ says Orfeas, captain of the CoExist team. Annie Berendsen was appointed captain of another group of ambitious students: teAMSpirit. She noticed the same dedication that Orfeas described: ‘It’s great to see the endless motivation and responsibility that the team members feel. We’ve become a very close-knit group in which everyone found their own role to play.’

the expertise of Wageningen University & Research by touring its experimental greenhouses in Bleiswijk. After the outbreak of the coronavirus, participants had to go online to have their brainstorm sessions, project meetings and drinks together. For some teams, especially the ones whose members are spread across the world, this didn’t really change anything. The Greek students from team CoExist, for example, study and work across Europe and would have had to cooperate online anyway.

Eco-currencies and vertical farms Despite the unusual circumstances, the teams still managed to come up with extraordinary ideas, as varied as mobile apps

“The kick-off was a real spectacle, a great start. The room was packed with international researchers and students and you could feel that there was a lot of enthusiasm” Challenging times Like the rest of the world, the UGC’2 was strongly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Jan Westra, coach from the horticultural technology company Priva, attended the meeting in October that set the Challenge in motion. ‘The kick-off was a real spectacle, a great start. The room was packed with international researchers and students and you could feel that there was a lot of enthusiasm.’ A few months later, live events were no longer possible. ‘The coronavirus made everything more complicated, more abstract. We really missed the informal interactions.’

Jan Westra (Priva), coach

“Some of the concepts were very interesting and even gave me new ideas”

The teams were affected too, though each in their own way. Fortunately for Annie Berendsen and her teammates, they had already spent a lot of time together before the lockdown. In the months before the outbreak of the coronavirus, they met each other almost every day and organised various excursions. They paid a visit to the composting company Meerlanden and to GROWx, which grows microgreens in a vertical farm in Amsterdam. The team also made good use of


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2 | UGC’2

Team CoExist

“This is the number 1 challenge for students interested in these things.”

and eco-currencies to spectacular building designs and ideas about vertical farms in the desert and turning waste into energy. Jan Westra was pleased to see students come up with completely different ideas too, like pixel farming. Coach Di Fang, design leader at the Dutch engineering company ABT, was also impressed: ‘Overall, the results were definitely better than I expected.’ She was surprised to see that most students didn’t start with building design – her own area of expertise – but from a perspective that is typical for Wageningen: food and sustainable energy. ‘Some of the concepts were very interesting and even gave me new ideas.’

The students, meanwhile, didn’t just learn from their coaches, they also learned a lot from each other. Most teams are composed of students with varying backgrounds. For example, teAMSpirit includes a group of MADE (Metropolitan Analysis, Design and Engineering) students, together with plant science students from Wageningen and architecture students from Delft. Two of them are from China and helped their teammates to better understand Chinese culture and practices. Team captain Annie Berendsen gained knowledge about business models that she didn’t have before and also developed her skills: ‘I’ve seen the value of being proactive. Just approach experts and don’t be afraid that they might say no.’

A unique challenge As the participants approached the finish line, they looked back on their experiences in the Urban Greenhouse Challenge. Di Fang would certainly encourage others to coach teams in one of the Student Challenges: ‘It’s good to work with young people and to know how new generations think.’ And would the team captains recommend the UGC’2 to fellow students? Both spent a lot of time and energy on their project, but feel that it was more than worth it. ‘If you are into the subject matter, you have to do it once in your life. ‘This is the number 1 challenge for students interested in these things,’ concluded Orfeas. Annie agreed that the UGC’2 is unlike anything she has experienced as a student. Not just professionally, but on a personal level as well: ‘We started as co-workers, and now we really are friends.’


Di Fang (ABT), coach

“We started as co-workers, and now we really are friends.” Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2 | UGC’2


Team AIGreen | Herbtopia

Spicing up the food experience Herbs have been used in China for thousands of years in the preparation of food, medicine and aromatic products, especially in Guangdong. While most Chinese have limited knowledge regarding herb cultivation and modern agriculture technologies, they show interest in visiting greenhouses and are open to learning about modern agriculture. We decided to blend traditional culture and future trends. Where tradition meets the future Our main products are herbs, and we based this choice on the nutritional value of herbs and traditional Guandong cuisine. Our urban greenhouse, Herbtopia, will be a place where visitors can learn about agriculture, as well as being a venue for entertainment and relaxation, providing food experiences using high-quality herbs, and family-themed services. We believe that our concept has great potential to attract people who regularly visit public spaces, offering them an interesting experience in the greenhouse.

community interaction, education, collaboration and research, recreation and sightseeing into the building concept. We want to encourage more people to live a healthy and sustainable lifestyle, slowly spreading from the surrounding communities to the wider society. Our greenhouse offers many educational activities for children and provides a place for the elderly to relax and entertain. We also provide opportunities and places for scientists and researchers to perform innovative research, as well as organising various online and offline activities (advertising, lectures, etc.) to encourage more people to take a closer look at modern agriculture.

Minimising environmental impact Circularity is one of the primary aims of our design. Our integrated food production system, which contains an aquaponics-based plant factory, aquaculture, a rooftop greenhouse and a mushroom factory, was designed to maximise resource use efficiency and minimise the negative impact of waste from the food production system. From nitrogen recycling in the aquaponic-based plant factory to gas exchange between the rooftop greenhouse, plant factory and mushroom factory, most ‘waste’ resources will be put to sustainable use by other systems. Inside the building, solar chimneys and solar panels are installed to reduce conventional energy demand; vacuum toilets and electrocoagulation technology are used to reduce water demand and recycle wastewater separately. Recycled wastewater and food waste will be used in community farms where residents can harvest crops together. Regarding building design, we use sustainable materials for facade and rooftops, which also fit in with traditional Cantonese building concepts.

Renovation of ‘Lingnan’ style Herbtopia intends to revive the local ‘Lingnan’ architectural style while incorporating futuristic technology and sustainability. Also, we plan to visualise the high-tech production and circulatory system as a landscape-aesthetic method, educating the public by providing diverse authentic experiences.

You are more than what you eat Apart from food production, we envision offering multiple functions with innovative technical solutions by integrating


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2 | Team AIGreen

Money-smart Our business model is based on selling herbs for profit and popularising the idea of a sustainable lifestyle among consumers. We will focus on marketing, promoting Herbtopia to become a famous lifestyle brand. To achieve this goal, we will advertise on social media and collaborate with the government and schools to organise educational campaigns on sustainability topics. In addition, discounts will be offered to attract new customers. Since the Chinese government has launched many policies to support sustainable agriculture, our initial investments will mainly be provided by the government and banks. Considering that China’s e-commerce platform is highly developed, we will make full use of this to expand our market and sell our products throughout China via our App Herbtopia, thereby also increasing our profits and spreading our knowledge.

Setting a good example Our design incorporates cutting-edge technologies within traditional Chinese building concepts and herb species. By providing diverse functions to consumers, visitors and communities it will further set a good example of ways to contribute to climate adaptation and local food security.

Find out more about the project >

Jingxian Lu, Yawei Wang, Keren Zhang, Shiying Lin, Xingqiao Li, Yiqiang Yang, Jingyi Wang, Yilin Zhang, Yujie Zhang Wageningen University & Research

“By participating in the Challenge, we have learned three lessons: that success comes from each single step; that many hands make light work and that one plus one is more than two!”

Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2


Coexist | Shennong’s Farmers

Old legend becomes a metaphor for modern urban farming In Chinese mythology, Shennong, the ‘Divine Farmer’, started Agriculture, Chinese medicine, the Market, and invented numerous farming tools. He had a ‘crystal’ stomach that allowed him to ‘see’ everything about a plant just by consuming it. One day he consumed a deadly flower that killed him before he had the chance to detoxify himself. Bringing the Divine Farmer back to life Through our design we bring Shennong back to life to re-skill farmers and teach humanity how to cultivate again. ‘Shennong Farmers’ is not just one Urban Greenhouse but an Agricultural Brand linking people, products, and local traditions paving the road towards the urban farming revolution.

Local visitors can also join Community Supported Agriculture through the ‘Shennong’s Farmers app’. They stay in touch with the farmers, receive locally produced vegetables every week by subscribing to ‘Shennong’s basket’ and interact with the Park and the Brand in many other ways such as apprelated tours, zero-waste challenges etc.

Deconstructing traditional earth-buildings

Food experience that pays

While designing the Headquarters of ‘Shennong’s Farmers’ we drew inspiration from ‘Tulous’, forever-standing ‘earth-buildings’ of the Chinese Vernacular Architecture, to represent ‘stability’ and ‘immortality’. In contrast to their traditional closed and fortified design, we developed an open structure, keeping the atrium and transforming it into an open public space. Around the atrium and above the ground, the rest of the building stands out like an elevated deconstructed ‘Tulou’.

All the crops produced in the Park are harvested and gathered in our logistics area. From there the goods are transferred to our restaurant where visitors can observe locally grown food being processed and cooked into traditional or foreign recipes. They can also meet with chefs and partake in cooking classes. Furthermore, visitors can buy their favourite ingredients from the Market and relieve the experience at home. All the goods produced on-site are sold under ‘Shennong’s Farmers’ name and a percentage of the generated revenues is given back to the producers and local communities.

The main functions of the building are: Microgreen and Leafy Green production in a Highly Automated Plant Factory with Artificial Lighting; Research and Knowledge transfer; Accommodation for farmers and tourists; Restaurant, Market and Logistics and Biodigestion of organic waste.

Educating the farmers of the future Our building accommodates farmers, who arrive from the greater Dongguan area for a minimum of 6 months. They work and learn alongside various Subject Matter Experts on different farming techniques and methods. By having a symbiotic relationship with the Central Agricultural Park, we give farmers the opportunity to gain hands on experience from organic open-field production to Plant Factories with Artificial Lighting. After graduating, farmers can choose to join the brand by becoming urban farmers or applying what they learned in their farms or nearby rural areas.

Creating a meeting place Apart from the educational outcomes, the farmers will have the chance to interact with local and foreign visitors as well as the youth through activities happening in our farm such as workshops, tours and internships. Facilitating such interactions aims to break the social barriers between the urban and rural population and help feelings of appreciation to arise.


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2 | Coexist

Leaving room for research Scientific Research and collaboration with local Universities played an important role in our design. Our proposed building is equipped with Laboratories functioning as Shennong’s crystal stomach allowing us to better understand our crops. In addition, our Auditorium serves in knowledge transfer between local producers, youth, the public and local businesses. The conference hall of our building also hosts educational and business seminars and talks. These events aim is to bring the research and academic community closer to the public and the business world.

Find out more about the project >

Orfeas Voutsinos-Frantzis, Nikolaos Alfieris, Giannis Panagiotakis, Maria Mastoraki, Konstantinos-Themistoklis Soiledis, Konstantinos Saitas Zarkias, Christos Grapas, Zoi Margeti, Christina Nassou, Emmanouil Vichos, Alexandros Veros, Stavronia Niovi Mazaraki, Athena Sakkouli, George Iliopoulos, Evanthia Soumelidou Agricultural University of Athens, Wageningen University & Research, Tilburg University, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, National Technical University of Athens, Panteion University, UCL, Athens University of Economics and Business, University of Thessaly

“If you are really into vertical farming and sustainability you have to participate in this Challenge once in your life.”

“It was really fascinating that people from completely different scientific fields came together and exchanged ideas about how to bring professional food production into urban areas.”

Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2


Green Rhapsody | The Cube

Nearly perfect solution to today’s problems Dongguan is a rising metropolis on China’s coastline. Rapid development means the city is almost constantly changing while, like any other megacity, Dongguan has to face the inevitable problems that arise in the course of urbanisation.

Sustainable development aligned with nature

The Green Bank

Rising population numbers and improved quality of life are leading to a higher demand for food, both in terms of quality and quantity. This increased demand reveals and even worsens the long-standing malpractices of the conventional production model – lack of sustainability and food safety. The environmental destruction caused by this model is becoming more severe by the day. Yet, few city dwellers are aware of this, since the situation seems to be far removed from their life. The stressful and fast-paced city life keeps people in a sub-healthy state. Irregular diet, staying up late and staring at electronic screens are leading people to a less colourful and less meaningful life.

We expect to raise a decent income from people visiting the greenhouse and retailing our products. But we place a higher priority on our ideological values. One of the core concepts the Cube presents to our audience is the importance and urgency of individuals putting environment-protection actions into practice. Green Bank is a platform where city dwellers can gain benefits from the Cube (e.g. coupons for restaurants and the market, entry to special events) through green behaviours, such as using public transport, choosing environmentally friendly goods. We save part of the income from the Cube to support this system since we believe that the social and environmental impact it will bring creates a win-win situation for everyone in society, even potentially for the whole planet.

Until now, every solution seems to have had drawbacks making it less applicable. But now we have created a nearly perfect solution to tackle all those problems – The Cube. With this urban greenhouse we strive to wake citizens up and restore the environment. By combining different models, we create sustainable development that is aligned with nature.

Join us! As an urban greenhouse, we picture the Cube as the future model for food production and sustainable development. And your participation will make it the perfect solution. Will you help us to make our life and future better?

A new industry model We have designed a plant factory and food factory, currently the most standardised and accurate food production systems, into the Cube. Together with three themed restaurants and a self-operated market, The Cube contains a whole industry chain, thus largely lowering unnecessary costs otherwise spent on middlemen while ensuring food safety. The model boosts production capacity considerably and eliminates limitations caused by unfavourable environmental factors, thus enabling us to meet most of the daily dietary needs of residents within a 3-5km radius of a greenhouse 2/3 the size of a football pitch. To deal with the headache problem of food waste, we introduce a computer system – ‘The centrum’ – based on big data to balance supply and demand and cut down waste as much as possible. Thanks to this model, crop choices, process methods and even time to maturity can be adjusted instantly.

Where all pieces fall into place All elements in the Cube are linked and every part has a unique role to play. Crop straw and organic waste left over from production and human activity are transformed into fertilisers and electricity through anaerobic digestion. Raindrops are reclaimed for reuse. Even the sunlight shining on the Cube and the cool air around are put to use to maintain the building’s low energy consumption.


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2 | Green Rhapsody

“We were given a chance to gain experience and make new friends. Those beautiful friendships will last after the Challenge has ended.”

Find out more about the project >

Yifei Chen, Ding Zhang, Yulin Sun, Junjie Xu, Qiuyi Chen, Jun Li, Yunan Chen, Xinjie Ouyang, Yichang Zhang Nanjing Agriculture University, Politecnico Di Torino

Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2


InnerCity | LEGO Greenhouse

Revolutionising urban food production We have innovated by using our interdisciplinary skills and by choosing diverse approaches in the way we developed our concept. New questions and ideas emerged through many dialogues, the goal being to build the Greenhouse of the future. Linking interdisciplinary technologies After countless hours of research, we discovered that there are many technologies outside the market that have not yet been linked together. Our Greenhouse is designed to set new standards for what urban farming could become in the future. CAP and other investors can develop a market champion while at the same time having a high socio-ecological impact on the community.

LEGO greenhouse What makes us different? The building structure is flexible, just like LEGO. In the building you can find the primary production process, a market, a food court, the research centre, community and social gardening programs, our own energy production facilities and the hotel with a restaurant for a complete experience. The Greenhouse can adapt to changes in market demand. For example, let’s say that based on the data provided, we realise we need to increase the aquaponic production. How? The specific levels can be easily expanded by using modules of prefabricated reusable elements, reaching the ideal size in just one day. This allows investors to stay ahead of their competitors. To keep costs as low and efficient as possible, a prefabricated wooden structure with steel knots is used as support. The elements are compatible in every part of the construction. The facade is generated using an adaptable pattern to give each part of the building the best matching functions.

in a transparent open-source process via the InnerCity 里 App. Additionally, consumers are given discounts according to a bonus system based on their cooperation. This helps to produce the food that is needed in a waste-free manner, because our products meet the precisely determined existing market demand. Hence, we minimise waste caused by unsold products and generate additional income streams.

Changing the way we think about urban food production And there is more... We have a diversified income stream portfolio consisting of the primary food production business, catering services, energy, tourism and data usage in order to provide a safe place to invest money and gain relevance with socio-ecological impact. We adopt the concept of community gardening, so the neighbourhood develops a closer relationship with the production process and increases its biodiversity. We have created the world’s first flexible, adaptable and economically sustainable Greenhouse that is changing the way we think of urban production.

Thinking big to ensure circularity In terms of circularity, we decided to think big. We reuse the water in the most efficient way, even making it possible for plants to grow in ecologically purified wastewater. In terms of energy, we produce more than we consume by having a diversified energy source mix: a biogas plant, solar windows and solar panels, and a geothermal plant. Furthermore, we are a part of the neighbourhood, by providing them with food and energy, and converting organic residues to green energy.

The power of data Consumer trust in the production of safe food is extremely important for the Chinese market. This is why our production process is fully transparent and traceable. A further goal is to revolutionise the way we as a society think about the value of data, by giving the user the power and benefits over their own data. In this way our customers become our partners, with the ability to set the amount of data they want to share


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2 | InnerCity

“Being part of this challenge has enlightened me in applying my theoretical knowledge to solve real life problem in areas of sustainable agriculture and global food security; it also sharpened my professional skills and relationship with other disciplines, working in a team irrespective of our intercultural differences.”

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Weronika Kisielinska, Iulia Vizman, Melinda Gyori, Yunfan Zou, Jinglin Zhao, Odunayo David Adeniyi, Jiaqi Li, Ziqi Lu, Yingtong Liu, Andreea Crudici, Mathäus Steurer, Sebastian-Andreas Dan University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna, Copenhagen School of Design and Technology, Guangdong-Technion Israel Institute of Technology, China Agriculture University, University of Debrecen, Shandong Jianzhu University & Sungkyunkwan University, Sun Yat-Sen University, Technical University Vienna

“It was a wonderful experience to combine our imagination, innovation and knowledge, and break through the original mode of thinking.”

Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2


Northwest A&F University Team

Fall into sustainable urban agriculture Facing the challenges of adequate food supply and lifestyle changes in the post Covid-19 world, our team uses ‘fall into’ as the core design concept to create a comfortable habitat for people that provides both high-quality food and a fully immersive experience.

Making healthy choices feel effortless In the park, people will fall into the urban green buildings that are full of oxygen and vitality, fall into ‘healthy’ products and services produced by advanced agricultural technology, and fall into an interactive community where modern agriculture is integrated into people’s daily life. Our team has also integrated the concept of ‘urban forest’ into the design, adopting a new way of indoor planting and building a system where commercial activities and viewing experiences take place.

Healthy people and planet We focus on a concept of ‘health’ that considers aspects of production, environment, lifestyle and social relations. For the production aspect, we use intelligent agricultural technology – the SAAS (Software-as-a-Service) services – to achieve ‘precision agriculture’, so that food quality and yield are ensured. To improve the environment, we not only recycle organic waste and wastewater from the production process to reduce environmental pollution, but also control inputs throughout the production process to decrease soil and water pollution caused by excessive fertiliser application. To encourage a healthier lifestyle, we offer a vertical farming and planting experience that brings people closer to the natural production process. We advocate the concept of ‘fresh food direct from production sites’ to reshape people’s perception of a healthy diet. In the social sphere, the park functions as a centre for research, communication and exhibitions on agricultural science and technology. It also acts as an agricultural product quality inspection centre for food produced both in the park and by farmers, in order to improve food security and enhance the competitiveness of farmers’ products. In this way, we will not only ensure the security and quality of food but also integrate sustainable production and consumption into people’s lives.

Farmers as stakeholders Since food in China is mainly produced by smallholder farmers and farmers account for a large proportion of the rural poor, we bring farmers in peri-urban areas into our model to create the ‘park+farmer’ mode. Farmers who cooperate with the park will produce standardised food under our quality control, which includes training and quality testing. The high demand for quality food in urban centres can be better met by producing food in an agricultural building and on farms. In the process, farmers will be empowered, and poverty will thus be alleviated. We can also improve the local economy


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2 | Northwest A&F University Team

by increasing farmers’ income and by promoting agricultural development in the region.

Harmonious relationship We have designed a ‘future agriculture’ complex to provide a replicable example for the development of urban agriculture. We incorporate an environment-friendly production system into the food production process, which includes a fertiliser irrigation system, soil testing and formula-fertilisation technology. Interaction between people and nature is promoted through crop planting, fruit-picking activities and horticultural therapy. We also adopt a resource recycling system in which wastes are collected and processed into nutrients for production, thus achieving sustainable circularity and reducing the degradation burden on nature. In the process, low-carbon production and a low-carbon lifestyle will be formed, and a ‘green’ mode of urban development promoted. This will enable the emergence of a more harmonious relationship between nature and humankind. Let’s create an expectation of agriculture flourishing in cities and let’s have high-quality food and life! Will you join us in making this happen?

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Haoming Zhong, Xue Zhao, Luyao Zheng, Shujun Cheng, Yu Zhou, Shuo Wang, Bowen Tian, Anqing Yi, Yang Li, Wenhui Hao, Yixi Kong, Wei Han Han, Yu Zhang Zhang, Ya Chen Sun, Shibiao Cai, Zhijiang Shao, Dandan Zhang, Qiang Gao Northwest Agriculture & Forestry University, University College London

“We enjoyed multidisciplinary ­cooperation.”

“Thanks to our participation in this Challenge we believe we can make a difference. We look forward to the future with optimism.”

Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2


Team Argos

Prioritising healthy and safe food An increasing population and growing concerns about food safety and sustainability are pressuring the city of Dongguan. With more people living in the city and fewer people living in the countryside, it has become a bigger struggle to ensure inhabitants of the city have access to food, especially safe food that has been produced in a sustainable way. How could we give the citizens of Dongguan access to healthy, safe food that is sustainably produced? We have found an alternative that is in line with our most important values: sustainability, food safety and providing healthy food to a broad range of the inhabitants of Dongguan. From the beginning, our goal has been to ensure that healthy and safe food will not be limited to the happy few, nor will it be limited to our greenhouse building only. We aim to introduce healthy, safe and sustainable food and its production into the homes of the Dongguan population.

can plant the cup they used in soil. Before they know it, the cup will have decomposed and a plant will grow from it! Do you believe that access to healthy and safe food is a human right? Then join us on our journey to take the next steps in sustainable farming.

Growing crops on twenty floors With our vertical farm we can produce healthy and safe vegetables in a sustainable way. In our greenhouse building we produce several types of crops in racks on different floors. We use innovative technologies, like hydroponics, to grow our vegetables efficiently. In total we have 20 floors dedicated to crop production – this means a lot of veggies for a lot of people!

Closing the energy cycle To make sure our production is as sustainable as possible, we have emphasised circularity in our design. For example, the tomatoes grown in the greenhouse will be immediately used for cooking a Cantonese-based meal in one of our food courts. The various meals will be offered in different price ranges to make sure people with different incomes are able to enjoy our food. The waste from the cooking process will be decomposed and used to produce biogas, which will fuel the methane energy system. Furthermore, we will produce our own wind, water and solar energy. One side of our building is therefore completely covered with solar panels, a total of 3882 to be precise!

Social interaction brings the building to life Without making a connection to people, a building is not ‘alive’. Our greenhouse builds relationships with the local community, tourists and farmers. For example, our rice is produced by local farmers with whom we cooperate to ensure sustainable farming and safety standards of the rice used in our food courts. We have also introduced several ways to involve our visitors in our enthusiasm for sustainable food production. They are able to buy growing kits which they can use at home to grow their own vegetables. Visitors that have enjoyed a nice cup of tea


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2 | Team Argos

“Working in an interdisciplinary team has taught us lot! We have learned that solving global problems starts with looking at solutions locally. So now we think in solutions rather than problems.”

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Brechje Hooglugt, Eva Frijns, Nina van Dulmen, Merijn Bouman, Roderick van Oostrom, Kalina Nikolova University of Twente, University of Amsterdam, TU Delft, Wageningen University & Research

Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2


Team Bagua | The Bagua Farmers

Embracing change and the flow of nature to create the Great Food Transformation Our current food system is massively threatening environmental sustainability and human health: it is one of the biggest contributors to climate change, biodiversity loss and freshwater contamination. Moreover, the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the risks and vulnerabilities of our globalised food network, placing millions of people at risk of acute hunger. Great Food Transformation We believe that the Great Food Transformation, as proposed by the EAT-Lancet commission, needs to happen. We must support environmental sustainability and nurture human health. Such a transformation is necessary to feed 10 billion people a healthy diet within our planetary boundaries, to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and meet the Paris Agreement.

circularity, creating synergies and resource flows between activities and between production and consumption of crops. The food will be provided to the community in an on-site restaurant and a farmers’ market, and in cooperation with local shops, delivery services and farmers. For the Bagua to be successful, the focus will be on entrepreneurial spirit and farmers ready to transfer their knowledge to people needing it, leading to robust profitability.

Embracing change and the flow of nature

Tackling current and future food challenges

With these challenges in mind, we – an interdisciplinary team of ten students from every corner of the world – designed the Bagua. Inspired by Taoism, we based our concept on the Dao, ‘the way’ – a way forward into the future in which we embrace change and the flow of nature. For this, we need to be flexible and adaptable – go with the Dao and appreciate contradictions. Thus, we take in as much solar energy and rainwater as possible, as each food-production area is designed to have an optimal relation with the light it receives. The building is a stacked semi-closed greenhouse – like the Sky Green towers – using the latest proven technologies to produce approximately 665 tons of food per year, enough to provide vegetables to 18,222 people per day.

Our project offers opportunities to many people to change their lives for the better while working on global challenges. If our aim is to achieve the Great Food Transformation and produce healthy and sustainable food, we need to educate the next generation of farmers and entrepreneurs. The Bagua vision is to become an inclusive and tolerant hub for fun, knowledge exchange, education and further research on agriculture to tackle current and future food challenges in balance with nature and society, bridging the gap between our food consumption and production, and bringing agriculture back to the cities.

Educating the next generation of farmers and entrepreneurs But the Bagua is more. It fosters social cohesion, inclusion and knowledge exchange through its food hub and educational centre. The ‘Bagua Prospective Producers Programme’ aims to transfer knowledge in the areas of traditional and modern agriculture, business and social skills, circularity and nutrition. Each year, it educates 100 schoolchildren whose parents are rural migrants with limited access to opportunities, thus enabling them to become entrepreneurs in this field and contributing to the Great Food Transformation towards safer and healthier food.

Giving back to the locals To bring farming closer to all of Dongguan’s citizens, the Bagua also hosts a competition whose winners will have the opportunity to conduct research on the Bagua premises. Both food production and social activities take place in a beautifully designed building that aims to achieve maximum


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2 | Team Bagua

Find out more about the project >

Olivia Manzart, Alejandro Rueda Gómez, Rachel Wilbertz, Sofie De Brabander, Ruijie Shi, Nicole Rodas, Maria Alejandra Monroy, Sara Samir, Gabriel Malaquin, Abdelrahman Mohie Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, Elisava Barcelona School of Design & Engineering, Cairo University

“I found it really interesting how people from all around the world with completely different backgrounds can agree to create an amazing project like ours :).”

“Challenges are a developed way of learning. I learned from mentors, teammates even from our competitors, and was exposed to a different area of knowledge I didn’t know about before.”

Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2


KAS | KAS greenhouse

Securing the future for smallholder farmers, rural-urban migrants and consumers We learned that the groups who are desperately in need of support – smallholder farmers, rural-urban migrants and consumers – were being left out of the new Chinese investment plans.

Creating opportunities for the most needy The KAS Greenhouse is designed to include, support and utilise the undervalued potential of smallholder farmers and rural-urban migrants, while improving the quality of life for consumers.

The convenient truth We came up with a synergetic, scalable concept that rebrands agriculture to entice young people to become the next-generation farmers. Farming is revolutionised, showcasing increased income potential for farmers. Rural-urban migrants’ prospects are improved through training that gives them the skills they need to succeed. Consumer well-being increases as a result of safe, healthy food produced in a fully transparent setting: KAS Greenhouse membership includes access to the livestreamed food production process. Healthy diets are encouraged by focussing on tasty, nutritional foods in our Culinary Innovation and Experience Centre. Everyone’s carbon footprint is reduced by using state-of-the-art sustainable farming techniques, preventing soil pollution and creating shorter food supply chains.

Upvaluing the undervalued Circularity and sustainability have been taken into account every step of the way. Rainwater is collected, the building uses a closed nutrient and water system, and we create value from by-products that are often wasted, such as used coffee and organic and inorganic waste. We transcend material circularity and build upon untouched concepts of circular economies. The KAS Greenhouse is capable of training its own staff, making the entire concept self-sufficient while adding renewed value to the undervalued potential of individuals. We create a mutualistic and scalable environment, stretching the self-strengthening effect far beyond the reaches of our physical site. The KAS Greenhouse allows the continuous creation of opportunities.

Science says now Scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming has long been established, but until now systemic solutions have been lacking. The People’s Republic of China faces specific additional challenges caused by its increasing population, big migration trends, neglected environmental damage, increased income disparity and negative effects caused by the rapid income transition. The Chinese agricultural sector needs to move forward so the country can provide a safe


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2 | KAS

and prosperous future. The Chinese government acknowledges the need for agricultural transition and its investments in agriculture have skyrocketed. While these investments are promising for the sector as a whole, it is uncertain to what extent smallholder farmers (who account for the largest part of the entire sector) will be positively affected. Furthermore, other growing issues, such as the lack of consumer food safety, and the lack of prospects for rural-urban migrants, are not being adequately addressed.

Brand building will make it work Using a systemic approach, we counter causal problems with tailored solutions and combine them into a fitting, phased business model. By initially establishing the brand through retail sales and exposure, followed by a community-building program, KAS will acquire the traction, impact and strength it deserves. To ensure continuity, we envisage a regulatory board to monitor and evaluate the design, impact and relevance of the KAS Greenhouse activities.

Going beyond Thanks to great help from our experts, who supported and validated our concept every step of the way, we have created a blueprint for future farming solutions. Our KAS Greenhouse is designed to go beyond its physical location, beyond nations and even beyond the boundaries of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge. It’s time to act now. It’s your turn to take the next step. It’s your move.

Find out more about the project >

Boudewijn Klosse, Ivo ten Have, Benjamin Smits, Ziye Zhu, Jurrian Nannes, Marieke de Haas, Kyungchun Kim, Bangding Xiong, Adriaan Moerdijk, Marieke van den Broek, Steven Poos, Wouter van As Wageningen University & Research

“Working in a multinational, interdisciplinary team can be challenging, but challenges create the perfect learning environment.”

“The feeling when we saw the puzzle, with pieces from different disciplines, come together was well worth the hard work.”

Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2


Team USP | Cora

Rethinking the normal Each year, according to the World Health Organization, one out of ten people falls ill after eating contaminated food. In an increasingly connected world, a small act on one side of the planet can have serious consequences in many other countries. That’s why food safety has become the subject of public health policy, as a way of preventing the emergence of diseases and even deaths. Ensuring food safety with short production chains More than ever, short production chains are important so people can have access to quality and reliable products and be aware of the processes that their food has gone through.

Creating a bond between tradition and innovation Cora was designed to embrace and stimulate city life while bringing food production closer to city dwellers, nourishing healthy and sustainable habits. We designed a complex and diverse system, integrating local culture, circular economy principles, safe and quality food growing, and social interactions. To make this possible, Cora creates a bond between tradition and innovation, a value which is also shown in the shape of our building: Cantonese vernacular architecture combined with high-tech solutions.

High-tech agriculture and social interactions Different growing systems were mixed to create a unique mutualistic environment. These include hydroponics, Dryponics, and aeroponics inside the building, and an agroforestry system in the farmland. Furthermore, to maintain phytosanitary control – ensuring food security and trust – the external ramps are symbols of consumers’ proximity to production, leading to a unique journey during which a great deal can be learned about food production. Cora is also a space that stimulates social interactions and environmental education via the auditorium, the interactive facade, and the ludic space in the farmland.

Capitalising on blockchain technologies In this inclusive scenario, CoraApp is responsible for bringing the experiences happening inside Cora to people all over the world. Moreover, it contributes to the idea of food security and transparency represented throughout the entire project and empowers consumers through blockchain technology: CoraTrack is our system for tracking the production chain, and CoraCoin is our internal digital coin. Via blockchain, the project capitalised the high initial investments through another digital currency, using crowdfunding as a way to encourage members of the public to co-invest in the initial investment. To do this, the economic feasibility was determined by mapping the cost value and payback period of 18 years, taking 80% of the annual estimated profit.

Multiplying the benefits Cora and Marina Center Agricultural Park complex will increase the quality of life, appreciation of the area, and attract tourism through the unmonetized and unquantified returns on the investment. In addition, the initiative will support Chinese policies on circular economy and highlight the importance of urban greenhouses in cities. Cora also enables smaller and easily traceable production chains, reducing logistical costs, in contrast to the lengthy chains that meet food demand in big cities. In this sense, citizens will have easier access to fresh and local food. Consequently, the impact of Cora will be the creation of a more conscious and healthy population combined with a new consumer mindset that will not settle for unreliable, unsafe or low-quality products. Rethink your normal, think Cora!

Business model that works Our business model proposes other activities connected to food production and a healthy lifestyle as a source of revenue, such as the CoraMarket, Restaurant, CoraCore, and Auditorium. These guarantee diverse sources of income and make our business feasible. Another approach that allows higher revenue and value was the choice of different crops to serve different market niches, leading to a compensatory profit relationship between vegetables, microgreens and other crops. As a result, Cora can sell diverse products in various price ranges to different Dongguan dwellers.


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2 | Team USP

Find out more about the project >

Gabriel Coneglian Barbosa, Camilla Grande Degaspari, Natalia Jacomino, Ana Victoria Silva Gonçalves, Guilherme Baldessin, Matheus Motta Vaz, Ingridth Sarah Hopp, Beatriz Alcantara, Juliana da Mata Santos University of Sao Paulo

“Working in such diverse ways, both physically and online, we ended up developing many skills that will for sure help us become better professionals.”

“We learned so much about many subjects that were completely different from our study field.”

Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2


TeAMSpirit | The Turtle

Leading the way to the food of tomorrow

Created to fit in and stand out The greenhouse exists as a bridge between the field of agricultural innovation and the culinary heritage of the people of China. It serves as an innovation platform in which citizens, researchers and businesses can come together and serve their surrounding community.

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Welcome to the Turtle, our circular urban farm. In Chinese mythology a turtle represents wisdom, longevity and resilience. This is exactly what we strive to achieve with our seasonal greenhouse. Standing in the heart of Guangzhou, the largest metropolitan area in the world, The Turtle reconnects urban citizens with the natural environment.

stand the unpredictable conditions that are present in the natural environment. By adopting an innovation process that has a primary focus on resilience, we ensure that the benefits of our research spread beyond the city of Dongguan, and also reach more vulnerable communities.

Strategy for longevity Four seasons all year round Our 4-season greenhouse exhibits tailored production systems that minimise resource input requirements as well as guaranteeing that our crops are as healthy and nutritious as possible. Our aquaponic system is the first of its kind, designed so that every resource – from nutrients to floor space – is fully utilised. This is achieved through the use of state-of-the-art Artificial Intelligence which regulates all environmental parameters and ensures specific crop and system optimisation. While our technologies focus on high-tech urban greenhouse farming, our research is aimed at affordable farming practices that can be applied to suit the wider, ever-changing conditions induced by climate change.

Circular power The powering of the Turtle required further innovation that somehow would take advantage of all energy flows to their fullest extent. This was achieved through the community-driven Green Power Plant. Here, heat, biogas and fertiliser are produced from the organic waste of the building and its surroundings. The biogas is fed into the Solid Oxide Fuel Cell technology, which converts the biogas into electricity with 56% efficiency, supplying power to the entire Turtle. For the building’s climate control, we developed a circular cooling system using heat flows from the LEDs and hybrid photovoltaic thermal panels. Combined with the heat exhaust from the solid oxide fuel cell, this runs the solar absorption cooling system, keeping the Turtle cool, even on the hottest days.

The Turtle way of life The Turtle is a place where people from all layers of society can appreciate their culinary heritage while learning about the impact of agricultural innovation. The building includes a living lab, as a means to tackle the lack of resilience in agricultural farming. The living lab is where researchers utilise the chaotic nature of an uncontrolled environment to ensure that all tested crops and farming practices are able to with-


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2 | TeAMSpirit

We believe that the production of crops should be local, sustainable, safe and affordable. Our core business focuses on this ambition by leveraging waste streams, innovating energy flows and merging high-end technology with local traditions. This is achieved through the creation of our own sustainable currency: Turtle EGGS. Citizens separate and hand in their waste and in return receive Turtle EGGS, which can be used to buy fresh products to support local businesses. This enables citizens to contribute to the city’s sustainability goals, while enabling us to leverage waste streams to reduce water and energy usage. The Turtle is powered by the people, for the people, creating a more sustainable and healthy way of living. The Turtle: Leading the way to the food of tomorrow 独占鳌 头 Come and meet us at the future of global agriculture.

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Tearlach Barden, Lauri Schippers, Roberto Carlos Marquez Estrada, Titus Venverloo, Annie Berendsen, Hanna Winters, Eleonora Thierry, Yuanyuan Yin, Nicolas Carvajal Ordonez, Liwei Zhang, Merel Schonagen, Jens Slagter AMS Institute, TU Delft en Wageningen University

“The people I’ve met and memories I have made during the urban greenhouse challenge are ones that I will not forget. The interdisciplinarity of the competition has made me appreciate how any large project requires the coming together of like-minded people, regardless of cultural and academic differences.”

“The experience of the greenhouse challenge has made me focus on sustainability in a way that I had not done before. I have now learnt that sustainability is more than a technical term used in city development but is a philosophy that can be applied to daily life.” Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2


Partners about the Challenge ‘I strongly believe that by participating in the Challenge we positively expand the brand Syngenta. I am looking forward to another year of coaching.’ Remco van den Berg (Syngenta) coach

‘It was very interesting to read the project plans of the students and, to my opinion, all projects I assessed show ambition and potential.’ Petrie de Jong, Rabobank, Selection Committee member

‘The concept of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge perfectly matches the corporate mission of Country Garden Group, which is to contribute to creation of a better society. We were amazed by ingenious ideas on future-oriented urban agriculture that students have come up with.’ Yang Duoyang, Country Garden Agriculture Co., Ltd.

‘I was surprised by the drive, enthusiasm and student’s urge to do something for the environment and local people.’ Jan Westra, Priva, coach

‘It has been inspiring to see all of the ideas develop. I also liked seeing the teams comment on future of food trends and COVID19. And as a coach, it felt good to give back.’ Henry Gordon-Smith, Agritecture, coach

‘It was fun and inspiring to be involved in the Challenge. It was great to see what the energy of brilliant young minds can generate, even in these challenging times. We look forward to seeing the designs come to reality in the future.’ Xu Zhang, OnePlanet, coach


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2 | Partners

‘The Challenge is a fantastic way to support students with our knowledge of the market and future trends. In this way the students really take note of the newest technologies and we are challenged by questions from this new generation.’ Sandro van Kouteren, Parus, coach

‘I was impressed by the fact that the teams I have coached have given great importance to the social impact of their greenhouse. This shows that new generations understand agriculture not just in terms of profit or yields, but rather as a way of living which must embrace social, cultural and environmental aspects.’

‘The teams have shown a surprising and original take on indoor farming.’ Ingrid Kortekaas, Codema

Monica Gabrielli, AboveFarm, coach

‘I was positively surprised by the ideas and great motivation of the teams participating in the Challenge. I also liked how the Challenge has stimulated effective student learning.’ Susana Toboso Chavero, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, coach

‘Thank you for this opportunity. It was an extreme pleasure and a great learning for me as well.’ Derick Jiwan, coach

‘I think it is important to have these kind of challenges to let students think about explorative innovations’ Jeff Zuidgeest, Rabobank, coach

Urban Greenhouse Challenge’2 | Partners


The University Fund Wageningen has a long tradition of supporting student activities that broaden the perspective of Wageningen students. We have supported activities that bring innovation to the university since 1951 and challenges are an important new way of learning within the university. They offer a great opportunity for students to discover their talents and to realise impact in practice. The fund is happy to support students who undertake additional activities in addition to their regular studies. UFW

The goals of WUR student challenges – educating top talent, enhancing entrepreneurial skills and growing the Wageningen network and reputation– align closely with the interests, expertise and roles of Wageningen Ambassadors. Also, challenges offer a unique opportunity to meet the most creative and entrepreneurial students from Wageningen University. It is always a great pleasure to get to know a new generation of eager and promising students from your alma mater and discuss their ambitions for a better world. Wageningen Ambassadors

‘By 2050 there will be nearly 10 billion mouths to feed. And though we produce more food today than at any other time in history, our food system is under stress. Climate change impacts threaten predictable growing seasons and grower livelihoods. Soil health and biodiversity are in decline. An estimated one third of food produced globally is lost or wasted. At the same time, the food and agricultural sector faces shifting consumer demands and changing environmental regulations. Rabobank knows these challenges are top of mind for our food and agriculture clients around the world. They are fundamental for us too. Businesses that can respond to these new demands will be best equipped to navigate risks and have a healthy, profitable future. Set against this backdrop, the food and agricultural sector is ready for a transition. The Greenhouse Challenge makes an important contribution to this transition.’ Carin van Huët, director Food and Agri Netherlands (Rabobank)