Opportunities don’t often come along if you aren’t looking, so when they do you should better go and grab them. And exactly like that I’ve been lucky enough notice an article on Facebook profile of my university about an offer to join international student challenge for designing “The Ultimate Urban Greenhouse”. I couldn’t help it and send in an application, even though it was advertised for Master students and above (I’m currently a Bachelor student). To my surprise, the person putting this team together was a colleague from the startup incubator which I joined recently – more on that can be read in this post – thus it all went really smoothly from there on.
The challenge is organized by the Wageningen University, located in the Netherlands, a well-known name in fields of healthy food and living environment. The goal is to present an urban greenhouse design which brings food production into urban neighborhoods, connects it with local energy systems, contributes to a circular city and encourages citizens to engage with sustainable production and consume healthy food. This obviously holds a very complex set of questions, but that’s the beauty of the competition.
Fortunately, we are well prepared for that. Our team leader has been able to draw the attention of many people with different domains and interests, forming a very diverse group. We are currently counting over 15 members, each bringing something slightly different – from indoor farming, aquaponics and organic farming, through soil sciences, waste management and renewable energies, to IoT, architecture and social economy. It has been truly exciting to hear every person speaking about their possible addition to the team in our first introductory meeting. I guess that undoubtedly helped us to get selected as one of competing teams.
The competition itself is going to be a sprint, as we have only from the February until the end of the August to develop a full concept description, a demo of the key enabling technologies and innovations, a video presentation and also a pitch presentation, which will be presented by all teams in the final event in the Netherlands. During the January we are getting provided with workshops, webinars and other educational materials, as well as technical details – we are being given a base of an already existing building and its nearest surroundings. The original purpose of the building is no longer getting fulfilled and therefore something like urban food production makes more sense in this case. From there on, it is all in our hands. So far we have been able to get in touch with experts from numerous industries, who have kindly agreed to consult our future drafts. We are also looking for nearby companies or projects to go visit them and get some more of inspiration. I will probably not be able to put out any articles during the competition, but later on, I definitely plan to write some articles about our approach, thought process and much more from behind the scenes, perhaps even our design!
Although winning the challenge would be certainly a valuable achievement, personally I already consider the current situation hugely beneficial. Gathering such an amazing team, we will be able to dive into all different areas and broaden our vision for the future. We will be able to meet and connect with many knowledgeable or influential people, get some attention and hopefully keep the team running in some sort of form even after the event, working on some other amazing projects. That is something I value the most – because after all, ultimately feeding the world is not about individuals but it needs to be a collective effort.