Urban Greenhouse Challenge #3

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Urban Greenhouse Challenge #3 Exploring the potential of urban farming for creating social impact

Urban Greenhouse Challenge #3 Exploring the potential of urban farming for creating social impact

© 2022 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’3 participants, Monica Vidal (WUR), Harm ten Napel (WUR), Pauline van Schayck (WUR) Editing: Susan Parren-Gardner Photos: Guy Ackermans, archive of the interviewees and teams Design: GAW, Marieke Eijt Printing: Tuijtel

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We thank our partners and sponsors for their generous contributions. Their support has been invaluable in making the Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3 an unforgettable and inspirational event, educating the game changers of the future and contributing to innovations for a sustainable future. Impact partner

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Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3

Business+ partners

Table of Contents Word from the Rector


The result of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge


Looking back: 1, 2 ... 3!


Podcast Series


Meet the Jury


Urban Greenhouse Challenge #3 in photos


What is it like to compete as a team in the Urban Greenhouse Challenge?


‘I love to see how young creative minds approach urban farming’


Concepts AggieCulture | Living Gardens


AgroLab | The Bumblebee Nest Food Hub


AMS Caterpillars | Chrysalis


BeRooted | A New Urban Farm


FRUCOLAS | Nourish2Flourish


IUA.CAAS | Oasis Action Plan


LettUs Design | The Mosaic Garden


Mirror | Beyond Farming


ReFarm | KORE Urban Farm


USC Stack | USC Smart Farming


Partners about the Challenge


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3 | Table of Contents


Word from the Rector

Rethinking food systems in booming cities

Natural disasters, a pandemic, and conflicts have again shown us that there is an urgent need for more equitable, sustainable and resilient food systems, as well as for food that is produced closer to the sites of consumption. Urban farms are potential gamechangers in countering these challenges. If designed with multi- purposes in mind, urban farming can improve the livelihood and health of urban dwellers, reduce the ecological footprint of food production and improve the living environment in our cities. Research into new ways of food production is essential, and systems such as indoor farming and urban greenhouses can help counter the many issues cities face in feeding their urban dwellers. Simultaneously ensuring equitable access to food and creating a convincing business model that also supports the livelihoods of underserved communities is not an easy task. But is a prerequisite to contributing to an equitable, healthy and sustainable future. Exploring the potential of new food systems and new concepts is precisely what we aim for with our Urban Greenhouse Challenge.

Inspiring young talent

As a leading institution in the field of agriculture and food production & consumption, we want 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 an example of how we stimulate them. In this Challenge, 30 teams with a total of 260 students from 74 different universities in 19 countries started on this journey at the end of 2021. After 8 months, 10 teams made it to the finals.

Innovative solutions and social impact for Washington D.C.

I am very proud of the students who have participated in the Social Impact edition of our Urban Greenhouse Challenge, the third edition in the series. They have developed amazing concepts and innovations that not only ensure year-round sustainable and affordable food production but also generate incomes for the local residents of Deanwood, Washington D.C. Deanwood is one of the most diverse lower-income neighbourhoods of Washington D.C. Potentially, the developed concepts and innovations will serve as prototypes and inspiration for affordable, sustainable and urban resilient design. Due to the pandemic, student teams had to collaborate online and were only able to engage with local residents and other local stakeholders virtually. I really admire their dedication and I congratulate them on their creativity, hard work and persistence!


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3 | 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 different. It has been a joint effort between my colleagues in Wageningen University & Research and our partners from around the world. I am very grateful for their support. Let me specifically mention Dwane Jones, Sabine O’Hara, Anna Franz and Eric Harris, all from our host partner and co-organiser the University of the District of Columbia (CAUSES-College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, and Environmental Sciences), and the representatives of the local residents in Deanwood, ANC Commissioner Antawan Holmes and Ms. Jimell Sanders, President of the Deanwood Citizen’s Association. Without their dedicated contribution and support, this Challenge would not have been possible. I would also like to mention our long-term supporters, the 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’3


The result of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge Text: Pauline van Schayck

To understand the success behind this first Wageningen student challenge, we have to go back to the university’s 100th anniversary in 2017. What started as an idea for an event at a party quickly turned into a plan for an annual phenomenon: a multidisciplinary, international competition in which student teams are presented with a concrete challenge. The challenge takes up a large part of the academic year and falls outside the regular study programme.

Bijlmer Bajes

A first for the life sciences

Next stop: China

“Student challenges have been organised by Dutch universities of science and technology for some time,” says organiser Rio Pals. “The World Solar Challenge is the most well-known. This involves student teams designing and building an electric car. These kinds of challenges are still rare in the life sciences, or at least there wasn’t anything like it in the Netherlands.” The idea of a lifescience challenge appealed to far more students than Pals and her colleague Marta Eggers had imagined, with 23 teams signing up for the first edition straight away. After three editions of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge, the count now stands at 106 teams with more than 1,000 students from 36 countries.


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3 ||The result of the Challenge Concept

The participants in the first edition examined the issue of how urban agriculture could find a place at a specific location in the Netherlands: the former Bijlmer Bajes (a prison). They had to use local resources and energy generated locally. At the same time, the aim was to involve residents in sustainable and healthy food as well as to prove that the plan was technically and financially feasible. The jury therefore assessed the plans not only on the environmental and sustainability aspects, but also on social, economic, and technical aspects.

The international character was given even more shape in the second and third editions when new locations were chosen. In 2019–2020, the assignment was to design an urban greenhouse for a park in a Chinese city. What made it so challenging to come up with a concept for this? “You start with just a piece of land, nothing else at all”, sums up one participant who designed a 23-storey tower for vertical farming. One of the winning teams designed an innovative building inspired by Taoism, a Chinese philosophical, religious tradition. Food production, research, education, and entertainment come together in the building.

“Coaches find it incredibly inspriting to guide such driven, creative young people.”

What motivates students to take part

After three editions, awareness of what the Urban Greenhouse Challenge has brought about is declining. Participants found the transdisciplinary teamwork, entrepreneurship, and dealing with complex issues particularly informative. Thanks to the 64 different business partners, participants were able to expand their network and explore career opportunities. Eggers: “However, those are not the main reasons why students decide to take part. They especially enjoy working on a concrete assignment, which they can complete in their own way. This is something that is different from what they do in their university courses. In a student challenge, they need much more initiative and creativity to come up with an entry.”

“(Students) especially enjoy working on concrete assignment, which they can complete in their own way. In a student challenge, they need much more initiative and creativity to come up with an entry.”

Coaches and masterclasses

Companies also increasingly saw the benefits of partnering with the Urban Greenhouse Challenge. From the second edition, they have been more closely involved, offering coaching and masterclasses. “In retrospect, coaches find it incredibly inspiring to guide such driven, creative young people,” says Pals. “Companies get a feel for what the younger generation is doing. This helps them gain new ideas for their own sector. They also do it for PR and to attract the best employees.”


Finally, in addition to the crossover between companies and students, Pals and Eggers also noticed an emerging interest in the topic of urban agriculture. “Urban farming has become more popular among young people in recent years,” says Eggers. “Perhaps that is partly thanks to the Urban Greenhouse Challenge. We even heard from some students that they came to Wageningen because of this challenge.” The topic of urban farming is now so alive that the challenge has been followed by the University of Bologna, Italy. A former participant in the Wageningen competition helped with the organisation.

Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3


Looking back: 1, 2 ... 3! Text: Monica Vidal

The end of an era… After three successful editions, it is finally time to say goodbye to the Urban Greenhouse Challenge series. In total, more than 1,000 students in over 100 teams from over 170 universities in 36 countries have participated in these Challenges. We are incredibly proud of the evolution of the Challenge throughout the three editions, from the increased complexity of each Challenge to the extension of the partner network supporting us. More than that, we are proud of the student teams who had the task of unpacking all that was asked from them and did so with creativity and ingenuity. Our core business

“As the leading university in the field of agriculture, we consider it our core business to contribute to the required transition and innovation and to educate the new generation of changemakers to drive this transition.” – Arthur Mol, Rector Magnificus/Vice President Executive Board (WUR) And the trigger was pressed to bring about a new series of Green Challenges to catalyse student-led innovation in the field of agriculture.

Announcement Finalists


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3 | Looking back

A green challenge: 100 years of WUR

By the time WUR was celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2018, the first Challenge in the series had kicked-off with a special mission: turning an old prison building into a vibrant food production hub in the Amsterdam Bajes Kwartier. Of the original 23 participating teams, 14 teams were chosen to pitch their concepts to the jury during the finals. The winning concept, ‘Open Bajes’ by Team GreenWURks (WUR), showed the world how a circular production system can harmonise with a community-centred design and a business model built on the co-creation of shared value.

The “challenge” of COVID-19

After the first challenge that brought together social, economic, environmental and technical aspects, it was time to move forward. The second Challenge in this series was scheduled to take place in 2020… The beginning of 2020 brought us all to a ‘never-before’ way of working. And, as we all readjusted to this new world, so did the student teams. With the kick-off of the Urban Greenhouse

Illustration Marina Roa

“As the leading university in the field of agriculture, we consider it our core business to contribute to the required transition and innovation and to educate the new generation of changemakers to drive this transition.”

Kick-off Event

Announcement Top 20

Challenge 2, students were asked to develop an urban greenhouse in Dongguan, China. By the time the 20 qualifying teams were selected in January 2020, international travel was slowly shutting down, making it impossible for the teams to visit the Challenge location and moving all contact online. Despite the adversities, and after several online activities, the students submitted their final concepts, and 10 teams made the cut to the finals of the Challenge. Team Bagua emerged victorious with their concept ‘The Bagua Farm’, maximising sun and water captation and offering a place for community and research to come together.

DC struggling with access to healthy food in what experts define as ‘food apartheid’. Challenging the students into dealing with a complex social landscape where issues such as poverty and unequal access to health, education and, most importantly, food defined the scene. A context that would have been impossible to unwrap if not for our partnership with the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) at the hands of Sabine O’Hara (founder and former Dean UDC CAUSES). Now, and for the first time in the Challenge’s history, the students had access to community members living in the very neighbourhood they were designing for.

A challenge for a Challenge


In the two previous Challenges student teams were juggling food production, circularity and social cohesion. But it was time to challenge the students even further. In the third edition of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge series, the social context of the designs became the main focus rather than just a nice addition. Thus, the Urban Greenhouse Challenge #3: Social Impact Edition took shape. This time, the students had to address the social context of Ward 7, a low-income neighbourhood in Washington

Ready, set… go! In November 2021, the challenge officially kicked-off in a hybrid format in Impulse. ‘Urban Farming Beyond Food Production’ hosted by the welcoming Simone Ritzer brought together 30 student teams from 74 different universities in 19 countries to help solve the issues of Ward 7 through urban farming. With keynote speeches from Sabine O’Hara (UDC), Tiffany Tsui (VFI) and Sigrid Wertheim-Heck (WUR), the bar was set for the issues students were up against.

Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3


First selection round

In February 2022, the local selection committee, powered by the UDC and members of the local residents’ committee, Antawan Holmes and Ms Jimell Sanders, had the very difficult task of cutting short the journeys of some of the student teams. The current dean of UDC CAUSES, Dwane Jones, announced those teams that had earned a place in the competition. The 20 qualifying teams were thrilled to learn they would continue further in the competition, and the selection committee was pleased to see so many quality submissions from the students.

Technology to the rescue

Throughout spring, when covid was still looming over our heads, technology was once again the unsung hero of the day. The student teams had their coach speed-dates online and received input on their designs from behind their computer screens. As for the Site Visit, with no chance of visiting Ward 7 in person, Zoom served as a window to the local context with help from a team of local actors, a video camera and a visual artist. In the end, we were grateful to USDA, DOEE and local entrepreneurs for lending their time to the students and helping us make this come together.

Announcement of finalists

After a long journey, the 10 finalist teams were announced in June 2022, and what a surprise! The improvements since Milestone 1 were impressive because some teams had made striking comebacks from the very bottom of the list. Selection committee member Tiffany Tsui (VFI) shared a few highlights of the designs, including modular and community-controlled solutions, short supply chains and local distribution networks. Needless to say, sustainability and circularity were present in virtually all projects.

Grand Finale

At last, the moment we were all waiting for. The stage was now set in the new Omnia Dialogue Centre. Early in the morning of 29 June 2022, the teams made their way to face the jury in the Dragon’s Den. It was all now in the hands of the jury made up of Nona Yehia (CEO Vertical Harvest), Patricia Paiva (ISHS), Harry Webers (WUR Ambassadors) and Thera Rohling (Priva & Sustainable Urban Delta). While we waited and browsed through the Designer’s Market, our partners Renee Snijders and Ed Smit (EatThis) kept us in the loop with their live radio broadcast. The results were known just before the start of the award ceremony, which brought together inspiring speakers such as Dhanush Dinesh (Clim-Eat), Prof. Gert Spaargaren (WUR), and Sabine O’Hara (UDC). Finally, the time came to announce the three winners of the Challenge. Congratulations Team LettUs Design, Team USC Stack and Team AMS Caterpillars! To close the event in the best way possible, WUR Rector Arthur Mol joined the stage with a special announcement: the name of the next series of challenges…

Then and Now Interview with prof. Gert Spaargaren, one of the intiators of the Urban Greenhouse series

When the idea for an Urban Greenhouse student challenge was first introduced, we at WUR’s Resource Use and Efficiency Team were looking into how to improve the contribution of students to innovation. The students themselves came up with the idea of a challenge and we saw it as an opportunity for crossdisciplinary and cross-cultural Education and Research.


Since then, the urban farming sector really took a turn, with a larger body of knowledge available, and acceptance for new approaches. After the first challenge, we learned to look at the business models in more detail, and after the second, we really wanted to push the students to look deeper into the sitespecific context and its social dimension. Now with this third edition, we have brought the social dimension to the forefront, and this is the most challenging aspect in my view.

Are you happy with what was accomplished?

Yes. And I think I can say that without hesitation! We have succeeded in making this an international and interdisciplinary student competition. I believe we gained momentum to connect to society and demystified the idea of growing food in the city.

Hopes for the Future

I envision this series of challenges as paving the path for those students to enter the networks of urban food professionals, and above that, for the students themselves to become the network, with some degree of authority in advising urban food production. Because these students have undergone a route into a future that has been modified by object-based learning.

Prof. Gert Spaargaren Environmental Policy Group (WUR)


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3 | Looking back

Podcast Series The Urban Greenhouse Challenge gets its own Podcast series!

WUR Student Challenges, in collaboration with EatThis and Paprikatastyradio, launched a five-episode podcast series: ‘Urban Greenhouse Talks’. This podcast series focused on the question of how feeding our cities can become more sustainable and socially inclusive. By interviewing a wide range of experts who shape the way we grow food in the cities, the series strived to give the audience an overview of current trends and developments, the future outlook for the sector and practical tips for the participants in the Urban Greenhouse Challenge.

Scan and find out more

Episode 01

Renee Snijders and Ed Smit look back at the origins of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge. With Professor Gert Spaargaren (WUR), Dr. Sigrid Wertheim Heck (WUR) and Henry Gordon Smith (Agritecture)

Episode 02

The hosts draw examples from the careers of three prominent women within the Sustainable Urban Development sector showcasing opportunities and challenges in realising urban farming projects all over the world. With Meiny Prins, (Priva), Manila de Iuliis (World of Walas) and Tiffany Tsui (Vertical Farm Institute).

Episode 03

Art van Rijn (Artechno Growsystems), Sandro van Kouteren (Parus Europe) and Manuel Oomen (Hawthorne Gardening Company), emphasise the importance of a solid production system and explain how to choose the right technology.

Episode 04

Neighbourhood Commissioner Antawan Holmes, Mrs. Jimell Sander (Deanwood Citizens Association), prof. Kathy Dixon (UDC), and Eric Harris (UDC) paint a picture of Ward 7 and the ‘food apartheid’ situation.

Episode 05

On the occasion of the Grand Finals of the 3rd Edition of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge, EatThis and Paprikatastyradio broadcasted a 2-hour live radio show preceding the award ceremony. Amongst others, Ed Smit and Renee Snijders interviewed various teams, jury members and previous participants.

Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3


Meet the Jury Text: Monica Vidal

Nona Yehia – CEO & Co-founder Vertical Harvest (Chair of the jury)

Professor Patricia Paiva - ISHS Representative South America

An accomplished architect by training, Nona built Vertical Harvest from the ground up as North America’s first vertical hydroponic greenhouse. Together with her co-founder Caroline Croft-Estay, Nona pioneered the company to focus on inclusive, customised employment for people with physical and/or intellectual disabilities. She conceived the company based on her experiences of growing up with a brother with developmental disabilities, her love of fresh and local food, her obsession with great design, and her longstanding community involvement.

Since 1997 Patricia has been a professor at the Federal University of Lavras in Brazil, where she teaches Floriculture and Landscaping. She also develops research focusing on ornamental plant production and postharvest quality as well as on the history, evolution and usage of gardens and urban green areas. Patricia is a board member of the Brazilian Society of Floriculture and Ornamental Plant (SBFPO) and, as the South American representative of the International Society of Horticultural Science (ISHS), she is responsible for the Young Minds Programme.

“What especially impressed me was that the groups were able to discover the real impact that architecture, technology and master planning can have on a community via the one thing that connects us all: food.”

“I was incredibly gratified to see the groups of students really invest in WHY urban agriculture is important. Not just because of the capabilities of the systems, but because these systems and approaches can have a positive and direct impact on people and communities. I am involved in these student challenges because I truly believe that we are on the cusp of a widespread movement that will revitalise the local food system. We need bright, young minds thinking outside of the box to push the boundaries of this exciting field and industry, redefining how we produce and distribute food and how we can better serve our communities. This is both a daunting challenge and an amazing opportunity!”


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3 | Meet the Jury

“I think this challenge is a great chance to show how the students can use their participation to unlock professional opportunities.”

“This year, the challenge shifted focus towards sustainability and community design. I was impressed by some of the concepts the students used. They were completely interacting with many diverse concepts such as sustainability, energy use and water use. It’s not enough to just think about the infrastructure in the area anymore. The student designs had to fulfil a need for the community. And I saw the students trying to involve the community in their projects. One of the goals of the International Society for Horticultural Science is to allow everybody in the world to be involved with horticulture. And in the Young Minds programme we try to show young students new opportunities for the study of horticulture in their future.“

Harry Webers - Wageningen Ambassador Harry Webers graduated from Wageningen Agricultural University in Environmental and Sanitary Engineering and is today a Wageningen Ambassador. As a Senior Consultant and CEO at Witteveen+Bos Consulting Engineers he has over 33 years of professional experience in which he has gained a wide range of engineering and consulting experience ranging from waste management, soil remediation, to impact assessment and environmental legislation. His moon shot is to make the economy circular and to contribute to sustainable welfare for the next generations.

“It is very inspiring to work together with young people. They have great ideas!”

“I believe it is very important to stay in contact with students. These young people also have to cope with the major challenges of this moment. I like the idea of ‘cooking together’ as an analogy. Innovation is not about having very bright people sitting alone in a very small room, designing and thinking of solutions. No, innovation is talking together and inspiring each other! And seeing the students ‘cooking together’ in multidisciplinary and multicultural teams, I think is an excellent opportunity for them to develop themselves. It’s a lifelong learning process! By working together in this Challenge in a rather short time, they can experience all those different perspectives.”

Meiny Prins – CEO Priva and founder Sustainable Urban Delta Meiny Prins is the CEO and co-owner of Priva and the founder of the Sustainable Urban Delta Foundation. In her role as CEO, she was named Business Woman of the Year, and received the first CleanTech Star that WWF awarded to Priva. Meiny is also a member of the Committee for Entrepreneurship and Finance in the Netherlands. She dedicates a significant part of her working life to promoting sustainability, innovation and entrepreneurship. Due to climate change, global food waste, and the insufficient availability of healthy food, it is of great importance that megacities transform themselves into food-producing cities.

“This challenge proves that the younger generation just gets it!”

“They’ve applied technology in a smart way, but at the same time they were creative and entrepreneurial in creating some really cool new business models. What I learned from the students is they can easily make a concept too beautiful very quickly. It’s very important to create the small steps forward and make it feasible first. I think their biggest challenge was to find a business model that is competitive with the way we sell food today. I joined this Challenge with Priva because I believe in the ecosystems surrounding food production. I believe in creating a grid that connects the dots around food, from production, to energy use, to restaurants... And this all seems to come together in urban areas.”

Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3


Urban Greenhouse Challenge#3 in photos

Kick-off event: Rector Arthur Mol

Kick-off Event: Tiffany Tsui and dr.Sigrid Wertheim-Heck

Kick-off Event

Grand Finals: jury deliberations

Designers’ Market at Grand Finals


Kick-off Event

Grand Finals: Award Ceremony

Grand Finals: Radio show with Renee Snijders and Ed Smit

Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3 | Urban Greenhouse Challenge#3 in photos

The winner, Team LettUs Design

Designers’ Market at Grand Finals

Designers’ Market at Grand Finals

Team USC Stack won 2nd Place

Grand Finals: Designers’ Market

Team AMS Caterpillars won 3rd Place and Resident’s Award

You are all winners!

Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3


What is it like to compete as a team in the Text: Harm ten Napel | published on WUR.nl on 20 April 2022

The student teams participating in the Urban Greenhouse Challenge #3 are taking on a real and complex challenge: devising an urban farm for one of the most diverse lower-income neighbourhoods of Washington D.C., which contributes to improving the quality of residents’ lives. How are they faring? In the final stretch of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge #3, the teams are now preparing for the second selection moment that will determine who will compete in the Grand Finals. Helping them are experienced coaches from the partner network. “We’re about 70% finished,” said Camilo Ayala of team AgroLab. The teams are now working to complete their proposals, trying to bring together all the different aspects of a complex project like this. With the added emphasis of social impact, this year’s competition is a challenge indeed. The student teams have also already overcome their share of hurdles. The members of AgroLab and team AggieCulture have learned how to work together in interdisciplinary teams, have gotten some reality checks from industry experts and have been inspired about the future of urban food ecosystems. The Urban Greenhouse Challenge has cast a spell over their lives. “It’s very hard not to be thinking about these things all the time,” said Max Vo of team AggieCulture.

Communicating between disciplines

Mateo Villegas of AgroLab came to the challenge out of an interest in sustainability and, more specifically, in the role food plays in a more sustainable world. “Food is our number one resource. It’s what we consume the most. This makes its potential enormous.” Mateo is an anthropologist as well as a biologist. Bringing sustainable farming into our cities and our lives calls for a combination of his specialties. “Combining the cultural and the natural, so to say.” Camilo Ayala added that the Challenge is a great opportunity to work in a diverse team of students with different areas of expertise. “We get to see all the potential from these diverse areas of knowledge.” Bringing his team together was an interesting process for Max of AggieCulture as well. Starting with his fellow students in plant sciences, he soon branched out to recruit designers and architects. “Their areas of focus really gave me different perspectives. The team brought together ideas and approached the project in ways I wouldn’t even have thought of.” Communication within such a multidisciplinary team is a challenge. “One of our coaches provided us with the four ‘selfies’ as a tool to optimise our collaboration as a team: self-awareness, selfassessment, self-improvement and self-reporting. It’s a continuous process.”

“The team brought together ideas and approached the project in ways I wouldn’t even have thought of.”

Team AggieCulture


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3 | Student perspective

Urban Greenhouse Challenge? “I think the social fabric a project generates is the most important result. Getting to know what the neighbourhood needs, what they want, was essential.”

Advice from industry and local experts

The teams’ first concepts were inspired by specific cultivation techniques or interests in specific technologies. Meetings with a variety of experts and coaches has broadened the students’ horizon to include all different aspects in the site design. “You’ve got people, process and technology,” explained Max. “Our team was initially very tech-driven. Since our consultations we’ve been able to take a step back and focus more on the people using the technology and the process in which this technology functions.” They’ve realised this Challenge is all about the people of D.C.’s Ward 7. “We want to give them the basic model. We want to give them ownership of it so they can develop it as they see fit.” “We’re still working on a sustainable business model,” said Camilo of AgroLab. The winning concept in the Urban Greenhouse Challenge is not just innovative, sustainable and socially impactful. “It also needs to be financially sustainable – in the long term,” he emphasised. “The economic aspect is really, really important.” The advice of their coaches was integral to this realisation, and in response AgroLab expanded their team to include more expertise in this area, finding the collaborators necessary to make their proposal a success. “The experts have been a huge influence but it’s the local people, who will use the farm, that have inspired us the most. The opportunity to talk to them has been immensely valuable,” said Camilo. “I think the social fabric a project generates is the most important result. Getting to know what the neighbourhood needs, what they want, was essential.” Mateo agreed with his teammate: “We made a huge effort to gather as much information as we could about the local people, the institutions and the city.”

A community of ideas

“It’s been an interesting process to study the site from a distance,” Mateo stated. The visit to the site of this year’s challenge had to be virtual because of the pandemic. “We found that there were actually some similarities with our home, Columbia; for example, the history of colonisation, the racialised population. It was a very interesting and enlightening comparison.” Max referred to the Urban Greenhouse Challenge as “a competitive but ultimately collaborative experience.” “It’s just amazing to me. And it’s exactly what I think we need: a community for people to share these ideas and to really work together. To share in the excitement.” The experience of working to better the lives of the citizens of Washington D.C.’s Ward 7 has been challenging, eyeopening and surprising. The student teams still have some time to incorporate the latest advice of their expert coaches and hand in their definitive proposal. On 8 June the jury will announce which teams will compete in the Grand Finals.

“The Challenge is a competetive but ulitmately collaborative experience. It’s just amazing to me.”

Team AgroLab_Uniandes

Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3


‘I love to see how young creative minds approach urban farming’ Text: Harm ten Napel | published on WUR.nl on 26 April 2022

The third Urban Greenhouse Challenge is all about social impact. Aiding the student teams in writing the best proposal for an urban farm that contributes to quality of life are a host of industry experts from the Urban Greenhouse Challenge partner network. They are very enthusiastic about this year’s competitors even though they’ve had to provide them with a reality check or two. The teams of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge #3 are working towards handing in their final proposals. The ten most convincing proposals will be announced on 8 June and will then compete for a place in the Grand Finals on 29 June. On their way to this finished proposal, the students have received advice from both industry experts from the partner network and local residents around the site of the urban farm. These advisory sessions with expert coaches are integral to the process of the Challenge, taking the proposals to the next level while teaching the student teams about every aspect that is important to such a complex project: from horticulture to architecture to economics. Sabrina Carvalho, Rosalie van Schie and Peter van den Dool gave their fair share of advice this year. Unanimously, they emphasised how fun and interesting it is to see students tackle these real world challenges. What did the experts think about this year’s Challenge and how did they work with the teams to create fully fleshed-out concepts?

“It’s such a diverse group of students, from all over the world, and the ideas are as diverse.” No-holds-barred creativity

Peter van den Dool, Company Development Officer at Van der Knaap, left his meeting early to explain why he wanted to coach teams in this year’s Challenge. “I love to stay in contact with people who are still learning. They come up with all these new ideas because they are still discovering how it all works. It’s a phase of no-holds-barred creativity. These teams are not yet stuck in recurring thought patterns.”


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3 | Coach perspective

It’s not just interesting for Peter personally; companies like Van der Knaap are eager to cooperate with anyone who can bring fresh ideas to the table. “Signify has been working in urban and city farming for many years,” explained plant specialist Sabrina Carvalho. “We even have our own Research Centre for that purpose. So joining this Challenge is part of our nature, you could say. Plus I just love to see how young creative minds approach urban farming.” “While studying animal and livestock farming, I had investigated how to bring the agricultural world and society closer together,” said Rosalie van Schie, representing Cauberg Huygen, when talking about the specifics of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge #3. “Now I wanted to connect students working on that problem to all the knowledge inside our company.”

From big ideas to realisable plans

“It’s such a diverse group of students, from all over the world, and the ideas are as diverse,” Rosalie said. tells Rosalie. A group that compartmentalised different parts of their urban farm caught Sabrina’s attention. “Greenhouses, outdoor vegetable patches, fishponds, chickens. And they wanted to use the waste streams from one compartment for the other. It’s impressive. These teams have already done a lot of research.” “I saw a concept with an on-site day-care where the employees could bring their kids,” added Peter. “And a concept with a focus on teaching locals how to grow vegetables themselves and how to eat more healthily.” Simple ideas that make an impact.

“The conversations they had with me are the conversations we at Signify have with our own clients. I thought: if only I could have done this when I was a student!”

“Big ideas, that’s how most of the teams I coached started out,” said Rosalie. “The word ‘futuristic’ comes to mind.” Coaching is often about helping a team focus on the essentials of their ideas. Peter, who mostly gave advice on the students’ business cases, had that same impression. “You have to start out that way, with endless possibilities. But then it becomes essential to build a sustainable plan that is financially stable in the long term. The question becomes: what can you realise?” ‘Simplify’ was Sabrina’s motto. “These concepts need to be implemented in the next two years!”

“I love to stay in contact with people who are still learning.”

“Of course, every project has its stressors,” said Rosalie. “You really get confronted with all it takes: the stakeholders, the rules, the logistics, the costs.” But everyone has fun as well, including the coaches. Sabrina, who works mostly with greenhouses, had to dig for her knowledge about open-field agriculture for a concept with no indoor production at all. “Oh, I haven’t talked about this for a while!” “The students participating in this Challenge are really getting to know what it takes to work on these kinds of problems,” Sabrina pointed out. “The conversations they had with me are the conversations we at Signify have with our own clients. I thought: if only I could have done this when I was a student!”

A realistic challenge

“You’re just continually asking questions,” explained Peter. “How do you make this affordable? How do you create jobs? What do the people need?”

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AggieCulture | Living Gardens Living Gardens cultivates sustainable health sovereignty through the story of a plant growing in symbiotic harmony with its ecosystem. A troubling food landscape

When conventional food system failures meet socioeconomic disparities, food apartheid emerges as a critical barrier to the self-determination of health in marginalised urban communities. Ward 7, Washington DC has only a single grocery store to feed a growing population of nearly 80,000 people; 96.8% are people of colour, 21.5% of the families are below the poverty line and the residents are among those Americans with the highest regional diet-related disease rates. How can a food desert struggling with such inequities affordably feed itself using an 83% lower carbon footprint and 98% less water than used by conventional produce from farm to table?

Why it matters…

The efficient design leverages a 2 million USD budget to consistently nourish nearly one in five Ward 7 households. Living Gardens acts as a versatile and actionable blueprint uniting people, process and technology to freely express their own “phenotype” that meets their needs. Public involvement, health data and partner performance track continuous improvement on pain points. Closed-loop production and circular economy lay the groundwork for a sustainable business model potentially yielding a 23% inflation-adjusted return on investment in 10 years. 100% community-sourced, Living Gardens encourages leaders to aim beyond nutritional security and inspire a growing spirit for all.

The Living Gardens concept

Living Gardens cultivates sustainable health sovereignty through the story of a plant growing in symbiotic harmony with its ecosystem, stretching its roots and reaching its branches to harness circularity within and without.

“This competition offered a very cool and unique creative space for those sharing passions in sustainable agriculture and urban development.” From root to leaf

Roots source inputs from community members, suppliers, institutions and diverted waste. Leaves are stackable, solar powered aquaponic modules using upcycled shipping containers for lowcost, highly adaptable, highly scalable organic production, each capable of “photosynthesizing” fresh, biodiverse produce for 76 households year round with about one household’s energy use. Fruit Branches are grocery trucks and local partnerships providing access to nutritionally complete and culturally receptive outputs, helping partners grow along the way. Seeds are educational and entrepreneurial opportunities. The East Capitol Urban Farm Stem grows from a startup hub for Leaf construction, propagation, feed production, processing, community kitchens and composting to a Trunk flourishing with educational facilities, health and social services, local artists exhibitions, recreational space, gardening plots and a regenerative food forest.


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3 | AggieCulture

“The Urban Greenhouse Challenge was a very intense yet rewarding and fun experience.”

Max Vo, Julia Dang, Ivan Martinez, Ofelia Viloche, Tiffany Chen, Danxiang Wang, Chen-Shu Lin, Bacongo Cisse, Tavon Naddaf, Md Shamim Ahamed, Annam Tran, Nathan Shang, Christopher EsparzaLezo, Yusuf Azam University of California Davis

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AgroLab | The Bumblebee Nest Food Hub A place designed to be the food sovereignty centre of the Ward 7 community in Washington D. C. The Nest fights food apartheid using biomimetic designs to assemble education, collective memory and circular agri-food systems operating both as an ecosystem and a cooperative society. The Bumblebee Nest

The Nest mimics the place that the native critically endangered (CR) [i] Rusty Patched Bumblebee (Bombus affinis) calls home where it produces its food for winter and takes care of the young and the elderly. Based on this bee’s social organisation, we built the three pillars of The Bumblebee Nest: The Queen, The Feeders and The Pollinators.

The Queen of the hive: laying the eggs and seeds for the future Education and cultural memory

This pillar is focused on keeping the community together and looking towards the future. In order to fight racial and gender injustice, special attention will be given to children and female- headed households; education will improve their capabilities and increase their leisure time. Our aim is to generate a massive transgenerational conversation about African American heritage, art and the bio-sciences. The Queen is expected to interact with more than 1500 people a month. Social fabric is going to grow and flourish symbiotically with the okra, the black-eyed pea and the benne crops.

The Feeders of the hive: producing, distributing and storing food for the community Circular agri-food systems

The Nest will grow, transform and store food so at least 2000 people from the Ward can get healthy food monthly. This is going to allow us to generate circular economies that impact the lives of black farmers, entrepreneurs and chefs of the community, especially single-parent families headed by women.

The Pollinators: symbiosis with the landscape Dwelling: the ecosystem through biomimicry:

The Nest will operate as a lichen in which rainwater, energy food, and residues are collected, stored, processed and recirculated, adjusting itself seasonally. A multispecies symbiosis will create a micro-ecosystem in The Bumblebee Nest, becoming part of the Anacostia River basin’s ecological connectivity. We also hope to become a hotspot for the regional conservation of this bee species through reproduction and research.


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3 | AgroLab

“We learned on how to address uncertainty.”

Mateo Villegas, Antonia Roda, Josué Ramos, Daniel Avendaño, Camilo Ayala, Ana Lucia Martínez Toledo, Maria José Sanchez Universidad de los Andes

“We were inspired by various perspectives of the members of our diverse team.”

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AMS Caterpillars | Chrysalis

Holistic design

Guided by our vision, we propose a holistic concept design. It incorporates the social, organisational, agricultural, economic and spatial elements needed to establish an innovative, self-sustaining urban farm that improves the food access and social cohesion of Ward 7, DC.

Triggering change

The AMS Caterpillars aim to trigger a Butterfly Effect. Our proposal is the single flap of a wing of a butterfly, which sets in motion a chain of events. The concept implemented by the community establishes a flourishing urban farm and educational hub for Ward 7. The building is shaped like a butterfly, and we want to let the community fill in its vibrant colours.

A living lab

Our community-centred design draws from AMS Institute’s Living Lab approach that brings research into society-wide implementation through incorporating co-creation by different disciplines and stakeholders. The AMS Caterpillars consider five topics to be our unique differentiators, which integrate community needs and challenge outcomes with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Through an Internal Integrated Design Framework (IIDF), we pair our Living Lab approach with year-round food production, circularity and sustainable design, organisational structure and economic planning.

Inspire to create

Finally, we draw on inspiration from urban farms in the US and state-of-the-art innovations developed in Amsterdam. Our proposed combination of SDG alignment, interdisciplinary high-tech proposals and global inspirations increases access to fresh produce, meaningful public space and economic opportunity, thus contributing to improving the quality of life.


Our concept embodies the metamorphosis of a caterpillar to butterfly, and the core of our mission is to preserve and support community spirit. We hope to provide the cocoon from which Ward 7’s butterflies can mature.


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3 | AMS Caterpillars

udent St


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Fostering community spirit through an adaptive, self-sustaining urban farm that ensures local food security and economic viability, infrastructure longevity and meaningful public space. Like the flap of the wings of a butterfly, we hope to initiate a process that adds value to the community spirit of Ward 7.

Jennifer Moore, Mees Deknatel, Gayathri Angou, Kyra Konings, Julie Noorman, Michiel van Selm, Matias Cardoso, Ludo van Muilekom, Beatrice Molteni, Gabriel Aranda Morales, Jan-Joris van der Plas, Wouter Stout, Stijn van den Berg, Roel Sipkema, Ruben Smolders, Simon Drolsbach, Sofia Valentini AMS Institute

“Working in an interdisciplinary team truly enriched the quality of the concept.”

“Working with students from all over the world gave us fresh perspectives.”

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BeRooted | A New Urban Farm The East Capitol Urban Farm is located in Washington D.C, a wealthy city but with a large disparity in demographics, wealth and health. Our innovative concept for the East Capitol Urban Farm tries to tap into the existing potential and overcome the socioeconomic disparities by sustainable growth. Leafing out

This entails the production of nutritious and organic food on a larger scale by means of aquaponics, a vertical farm, greenhouses, a food forest and a community garden. Access to these foods is key, and we therefore reserve a fair share of our production and ensure its distribution among the residents of Ward 7 through local grocers and the weekly farmer’s market.

Growing in the right direction

For sustainable and circular food production, our farm has solar panels and a rainwater collection system from the rooftop of the main building. These will be used as energy and water sources for either the indoor or outdoor production areas. In addition, we will use compost from our production facilities to increase food production.

Growing communities

We ensure that the residents of Ward 7 will have access to and be actively engaged in the co-creative development process of the urban farm and all its activities. A modular building concept allows for the growth of production and community spaces as well as the growth of a close-knit community, meaningful connections, knowledge, entrepreneurial initiatives and the overall social capital. Spaces within the building are flexible and sizable to fit different purposes, such as workshops, lectures, concerts, communal dinners and any other format the residents of Ward 7 need.

Added value

Besides the creation of local jobs, the East Capitol Urban Farm will foster entrepreneurial initiatives, its startup incubator and ensure long-lasting and sustainable economic growth. Let’s grow together!

“We learnt to never give up.”


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3 | BeRooted

Nikolas Lanjouw, Ainhoa Valero Abad, Karsten Pawellek, Elia Turato, Paula Costa, Faysal Tareq, Dixuan Cai Wageningen University & Research; Nanjing Agricultural University

“It was difficult, but very rewarding. It’s an experience we will never forget.”

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FRUCOLAS | Nourish2Flourish In Ward 7, Washington D.C., limitations to fresh produce led to food apartheid and the malnutrition of its inhabitants. The project Nourish2Flourish (N2F) tackles this issue by nourishing four aspects of the East Capitol Urban Farm (ECUF). Nourish2Flourish aims to increase the ownership and empowerment of the local community and reframe the relation between food and people with a focus on agricultural literacy. Investing in Farm, Mind, Community and Accessibility will lead the ECUF to flourish beyond the physical borders of the farm. Farm

Building on the existing knowledge, food production will focus on sustainably offering nutritious food. Different ways of farming are carried out in the ECUF: permaculture, walipini, aquaponic and vertical farming. All of them are based on the circularity of water and nutrients, thus making the production more sustainable and creating a long-term impact on soil, biodiversity and people’s quality of life.


A community needs to have a place where everyone feels safe. The open design creates spaces for meeting and talking with people. In the village buildings events can be organised and relevant topics can be introduced and issued by and for the community. The site is a place that is owned by the people and that reflects the values of the community.

“It was a learning and growing experience. It was great to share this journey with amazing people in our team.”


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3 | FRUCOLAS


With a focus on young generations, the project Nourish2Flourish will offer workshops, tours and school programmes. The farm is designed around agricultural literacy and offers learning opportunities on different farming systems. Workshops will teach people how to grow food and herbs in their own garden; this spreads food production in the neighbourhood and will have a long-lasting impact. Creating knowledge about ingredients and how to prepare a nutritious meal will be tools to address malnutrition in the neighbourhood.


Giving people easy access to healthy food is key to ensuring a healthy diet. Collaborative efforts will ensure that pick-up points for vegetable boxes and readymade meals are easily available for all. The ECUF also creates access to jobs for the community. The unique design of the education programmes gives people in urban spaces access to experiences and learning opportunities about food systems and all things concerning agriculture and food.

Simon Fines, Fleur Gulien, Lena Zangerl, Aurora Cravino, Kyu hee Do, Sebastián Iturriaga Gazol Wageningen University & Research

“The Challenge taught us to think outside of the box and work in a dynamic and intercultural stetting.”

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IUA.CAAS | Oasis Action Plan “Meet the Oasis Action Plan. An action plan to turn the East Capitol Urban Farm into a lively community-based farm that simultaneously serves as a sustainable food producer, an employment training base, an educational park and a business incubator and that is expected to greatly improve the food security status and the quality of life of local residents.”

A plan for Ward 7

Ward 7, where the East Capitol Urban Farm is located, is a relatively underdeveloped area in Washington, D.C. Local residents have difficulties in accessing affordable and nutritious food and suffer from issues such as unemployment, lack of educational resources and chronic diseases. IUA.CAAS’s Oasis Action Plan promotes “community activation” as the core design concept and aims to establish a community-based urban farm that simultaneously serves as a sustainable food producer, an employment training base and an educational park.

Activating the community in three steps

This “community activation” is embedded throughout our entire plan, from the operational mechanism design to the spatial and architectural design. Specifically, the operational mechanism consists of three programmes - the Oasis Mom Farm, the Oasis Food Lab and the Oasis Bank - working together to establish a self-loop model that achieves both economic viability and social impacts.

Oasis Bank Programme

The Oasis Bank Programme is an incubator that supports creative ideas to be developed into small businesses that are aimed at improving the economic status of the community. In terms of the spatial design, local cultural elements are well integrated to provide an interactive and comfortable environment where community residents could communicate, relax, workout and learn, all this in a sense of belonging.

Integrated solutions make the world spin

By means of the “production-employment-education-incubation” model, the Oasis Action Plan offers an integrated solution that improves local food systems and the quality of life of local residents with regard to their health, education, society and culture, environment and infrastructural access. We expect that this Plan will greatly activate the community, increase community cohesion and contribute to urban sustainability and resilience.

Oasis Mom Farm Programme

The Oasis Mom Farm Programme is mainly the food producer and source of finance. It can provide about 120 tons of affordable and nutritious food year-round through environment-friendly cultivation methods. The agricultural-crafts production and catering services can bring economic benefits and employment positions while also providing financial support for the other two programmes.

Oasis Food Lab Programme

The Oasis Food Lab Programme collaborates with other NGOs, functions as a food re-distributor and can provide food from entities such as restaurants to residents in need. The Lab also provides services in food education, health management and professional training courses (which increase employment) through diverse online and offline activities.


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3 | IUA.CAAS

“This competition made us realize that urban agriculture is not about the latest agricultural technologies, but about the social impact it has on the people.”

Lu Zhang, Fei He, ​Qiang Yang, ​Yicheng Yang, ​Yue Wu, Y ​ angyang Cai, Chang Luo, Yuchuan Song, Haozhen Wang, Wenyu Zhang, ​Miaomiao Sun University of Webster; Sichuan Fine Arts Institute; Institute of Urban Agriculture, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences; Sichuan Agricultural University; Chengdu Agricultural College; China Agricultural University; Jiangsu University; Tiangong University

“It was an unforgettable experience to work in an interdisciplinary team and communicating, sharing, collaborating and honing your professional skills.”

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LettUs Design | The Mosaic Garden In our effort to tackle Ward 7’s challenges as a neighbourhood with poor access to food, educatio, and economic opportunities, we propose a modular urban farming concept that can be tailored to the needs of the community. Empowering Communities Block by Block

Educating for the future


A guarantee

Our approach enables local participation during ideation, development, modification and expansion. This is achieved via configurable modules for the functions of the site: food production, community engagement, education and employment. Functions are introduced at different community phases as they financially scale up to meet long-term urban farming goals.

At its heart, our design includes a symbiotic and reliable, year-round aquaponic food production system that can be easily adapted to the required scale of operations and different crops. Mushrooms and fish provide year-round healthy protein to supplement leafy greens and tomatoes. Culturally connected produce can be grown in the indoor community garden and hydroponic research facility.

Along with engaging members through the community garden, square, playground and market, the site also facilitates education for all age groups. An inclusively accessible interactive education path highlights the farming and sustainability practices on site. The site includes an extended campus for UDC WDLL division, focusing on employment upskilling and personal development workshops

As a team, we acknowledge the current local governance efforts to address the challenges of Ward 7 as well as the efforts of local community members. Our farm aims to create programmes that safeguard the current and future vibrant character of Ward 7 by empowering communities block by block.

Without breaking the bank

The food production system is supported by a business model that serves and employs community members through strategies like a year-round subscription service, remote stalls, and partnering with local organisations for distribution. Modularity enables the community to finance the first few modules entirely from government funds and incentives.

And around it goes

Circularity on site is realised by recycling all primary waste flows into the food production chain. Rainwater harvesting and solar energy generation will further increase the site’s self-sufficiency. At the same time, the site, as a biodiverse green space, serves as a buffer for floods and heat, thus contributing to the resilience of the site and its surroundings.


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3 | LettUs Design

“We have learned about how to be designers for communities and to find ways of highlighting their voice.”

Sarah Hoogenboom, Prathamesh Patalay, Adrianna Waleszczak, Matskidou Isidora, Caroline Gasten, Eren Gozde Anil, Jonathan Schieren, Mustafa Agbaria, Emma Little, Oda Lægran TU Delft

“It’s crazy how, starting from our own field of expertise, over time we have naturally adopted a more holistic approach, integrating environmental, social and economic perspectives into any considerations.”

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Mirror | Beyond Farming The main ambition of the project is to design a concept that has a positive, long-lasting impact. We want to propose a design that is simple so that the community would be inclined to implement it. Fostering ownership

Our unique cooperative business model of shared ownership provides a strong and resilient network with farmers and the University of the District of Columbia. With our greenhouse and aquaponics system, we will grow fresh food. And by collaborating with farmers, we can offer a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) food box, which locals can get at a discount in return for their willingness to participate at the site as much they are able. Our target group – single, female-headed households around Ward 7 & 8 - are more likely to be juggling two jobs in order to make ends meet.

Restoring autonomy to the community

Being a member of the community garden offers a support network with people who want to help in any way they can. Bottom-up approaches have been shown to be grounds for social connection, personal growth and generating feelings of mean-


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3 | Mirror

ingfulness. East Capitol will give a sense of autonomy back to the community, which contributes to ending food apartheid. Community gardens are performed places where the activities and social exchange result in the collective creation of new and progressive urban spaces. The members of the community no longer have to be living at the expense of others as they get to reclaim their neighbourhood through new forms of organising themselves.

Closing the circle

The site will also aim to become as sustainable as possible. By aiming to be as circular as possible, by giving ‘waste’ a new purpose, harvesting rain water, reusing nutrients, using alternative energy and minimising our impact on the local biodiversity of Washington D.C. Our future ideas for the site can be found in the Annex. However, it is up to the community itself to decide whether and how they want to carry out certain activities.

Annabel Oosterwijk, Ishita Aggarwal, Nandeesh Jalahalli Rangegowa, Karoline Hansen, Avery Leerling, Henry Kwan, Mukesh Sainani, Lakanapohn Sinparu, Orapim Sinparu, A. Sarah Kohane, Karen Sanchez, Jacob Marian Lindloff Wageningen University & Reseach; Tu Delft; HAS Hogeschool; Hohenheim University; TU Wien; University of Toronto; University of Guelph; Kasetsart University; Suranaree University of Technology

“We learned so much from working in a multidisciplinary group with different cultural backgrounds.”

“We worked hard but we also had lots of fun in between.”

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ReFarm | KORE Urban Farm Once more, let’s try again. Let’s shape the community by sharing diversity with a meal. Reclaim the knowledge of your ancestors. Act to fight food insecurity. The KORE

East of the Anacostia River in Washington D.C, Ward 7 faces many difficulties related to food insecurity. It has one of the highest levels of poverty, limited food access and elevated rates of hypertension, obesity and diabetes. Unfortunately, there are only two medical centres in the area. This generates problems on both a large and small scale. KORE Urban Farm aims to provide an all-encompassing solution through a master plan that provides different spaces for social and agricultural activities.

Start Green

The project’s sustainability methods include reusing water via tidal flow and rainwater harvesting. Solar panels and green infrastructure reduce energy consumption, and bioretention systems help filter environmental pollutants and recharge the groundwater. We propose open spaces for outdoor theatres, gatherings, celebrations and art expression. The core of the project is three main plazas to share activities, socialise and strengthen community relationships. Each plaza has a theme: culture, agriculture and children.


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3 | ReFarm

A centre for the community

The built areas serve two purposes: to promote both social cohesion and food production. Residents of Ward 7 will have spaces for educational workshops, cultural activities and resources to help residents of all ages with different topics. Additionally, a day-care facility will help families with children during work hours, and a health centre will provide basic care.

Producing food with love

Our outdoor food production area maximises sun exposure to promote better plant growth. In our indoor food production area, we produce high-yield and high-quality food with hydroponics, vertical farming and aquaponics, and the plant nursery and post-harvest areas are fully equipped to develop our in-house brand using our harvested produce. Furthermore, the dark kitchen will help local restaurants and support food production.


We want to have active and engaged citizens, improve their lifestyle and strengthen the community with activities for all ages. We aim to empower Ward 7 and each affiliated household with the know-how to continuously improve their quality of life.

Adriana Maria Aleman Aguirre, Manuel Alejandro Carbajal Suárez, Adriana Cecilia Velis Suárez, Erika Viridiana Alonso Lorenzo, Pierina Angela Virhuez Delgado, Carla Andrea Campos Peruano, Emma Beroske, Fiorella Stephanie Espinoza Baldeòn, Andrea Wilson Delgado Wageningen University & Research; Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas; Stony Brook University; University of Arizona; Utrecht University; Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru

“The Urban Greenhouse Challenge was like a relay race and a marathon. We are grateful for the experience and the opportunity to meet people around the world.”

“It was a great opportunity to learn more about urban agriculture and its importance.”

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USC Stack | USC Smart Farming In addressing food insecurity and promoting wellness in both Ward 7 and beyond, the issue isn’t about building more grocery stores and growing more produce; rather it’s about building a smarter network for food distribution and positively redefining the relationship that consumers maintain with their food supplier – this is the Stack vision. More than food production

In many neighbourhoods, obtaining fresh and healthy produce is disproportionately more expensive and difficult due to poor transportation infrastructure compared to other regions. This is especially true in food deserts. Thus, in order to truly combat the root issue, the solution must address not just food production, but also distribution and education and it must encourage the active engagement and investment of the community and its stakeholders.

3 verticals for a holistic vision

Stack is holistically designed with supply chain self-sufficiency and environmental circularity in mind while maximising the three following verticals: 1) the total distribution capacity of our produce; 2) the creation of empowering employment opportunities; 3) the capture of high-value produce markets.


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3 | USC Stack

Mobile Market Model

To accomplish this, Stack introduces the “Mobile Market Model”-- a new paradigm for scalable food distribution and community engagement. Instead of burdening customers with traveling to us, we bring the grocery store directly to them in the form of a dynamic, electric market bus. Freed from the need to build expensive, low-efficacy physical stores, Stack passes these savings to the community, along with increased accessibility and a far more enjoyable shopping process. Being a ‘grocery store on wheels’, our model is designed to scale far beyond our allotted three-acre site. On site, we allocate far more acreage to growing plants and increasing our yield and stand-alone profitability. We create countless jobs with long-term career opportunities centred around food production, agritech operations, green-energy collection and a full-scale mobile grocery store business. Integrating AI and machine learning agents, we combine smart farming with a streamlined market and supply chain ecosystem.

Daniel He, Shatad Purohit, Calder Scarpa, Paige Buckner, Fan Zhou, Sanchit Mehta, Alexander Shirley, Hannah Tadros, Brooke Redmond University of Southern California

A healthier food supply chain

Utilising the proven scalability of our produce delivery business models and leveraging our triple-bottom-line approach, Stack ensures the creation of first-layer distributional infrastructure in Ward 7 and a platform to develop a healthier food supply chain while maximising opportunities for community engagement, empowerment and long-term growth. Farm On!

“We really enjoyed seeing the interaction between engineering and business model side of the project.”

“We have learned so much more about vertical farming than we thought we ever could.”

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Partners about the Challenge “I really appreciated helping the students to improve their projects. The teams were very creative, coming up with innovations with great potential. Being a member of the selection committee is a great opportunity to feel the trends that drive the younger generations around the challenges of the city of the future: greener, social and resilient!” Guillaume Morel-Chevillet, GROOF/Astredhor (Coach & Selection Committee)

“To see so many people and companies put their energy and knowledge together for such a beautiful project gave me great joy. There are amazing people in the world that want to take care of this earth and give the younger generation a bright future. This project is proof of that!” Rosalie van Schie, Cauberg Huygen (Coach)

”Coaching was a pleasure, and I am delighted to see how much creativity the multidisciplinary teams have brought to the field of horticulture.” Alexander Boedijn, WUR Connected Circularity Programme (Coach)

“It was great to be part of this process, and I hope these experiences will guide future research and development in creating sustainable and healthy urban food systems.” Prof. Peter Oosterveer, WUR Environmental Policy Group (Coach)

“I was very inspired by the diversity of ideas the teams came up with when faced with a single assignment. It was interesting to see how people ran into many of the same kinds of questions around social impact and the trade-offs between that and economic viability. I loved the creativity the students showed when addressing this challenge and the trade-offs!” Anke Brons, WUR (Coach)


Urban Greenhouse Challenge’3 | Partners

“Achieving circularity on the urban level is both a complex problem as well as an inviting prospect. Circularity requires multi-disciplinary approaches, but foremost: connecting with one another. The UGC has done just that and will prove to be a milestone in the participants’ careers and future development. Thank you for the opportunity to be part of it.” Hilke Bos-Bouwers, WUR Connected Circularity Programme (Coach)

“It was a great experience to coach the teams with their futuristic and sustainable plans. Seeing and hearing how these students look at sustainable business models was truly inspiring.” Peter van den Dool, Van der Knapp Group (Coach)

“It was fascinating to interact with different teams and get the excitement of new ideas and concept fusion. We helped the students to consider the financial and environmental sustainability of their concepts and we brainstormed about the feasibility of their ideas. The fact that we were also challenged to think about all of these aspects was stimulating.” Sabrina Carvalho, Signify (Coach)

“It was a great honour to support such an important initiative and it was so wonderful to see how much enthusiasm and creativity every single participant brought to the table!” Maria Belarukova, Signify (Coach)

“This Challenge showed how important it is to involve young designers in rethinking and developing the concept of the greenhouse to meet the urban challenges we’re facing today” Daniel Podmirseg, CEO Vertical Farm Institute (Coach)

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