The third Urban Greenhouse Challenge is about creating social change – Urban Ag News
The Urban Greenhouse Challenge started on November 3. This is the third time that Wageningen University & Research has held its international competition of students looking for ideas for local and urban food production that can feed cities in a sustainable way. This “social impact edition” challenges competitors to think beyond food to see urban agriculture as a catalyst for social change.
This year’s Urban Greenhouse Challenge will examine all the ways an urban farming site can influence issues such as poverty, unemployment, and lack of access to affordable and nutritious food. In short, this edition is all about social impact.
The final entry for the contestants will focus on the East Capitol Urban Farm in Washington, DC, a food hub in one of the most diverse low-income neighborhoods in the capital city of the United States. This year’s challengers are invited to create a comprehensive plan that expands the site not only to produce food year-round in a robust and resilient manner, but also promotes social equity through a new food economy.
Watch the kick-off replay
Talking about “social externalities”
To kick off this social impact edition of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge, Dr Sabine O’Hara (University of the District of Columbia) spoke to all potential challengers. His inspirational talk was about food in the broad sense. What are the “negative externalities” of food, costs that move in space and time, such as emissions or erosion?
It also introduced a new concept, social externalities. What are the hidden social costs of our current food systems? Sabine highlighted food insecurity and hardship; 37% of households with children in the United States were unable to obtain enough food. She stressed the need for circular food systems “integrated into their environment, which is ultimately our only globe”.
This year’s challenge is actually, in a way, a continuation of O’Hara’s collaboration with Dr Marian Stuiver of Wageningen University & Research, responsible for the Green Cities program. They worked together to develop a circular, nature-based food hub perspective.
O’Hara’s opening speech was followed by a conversation with Tiffany Tsui of the Vertical Farm Institute and Wageningen researcher Dr Sigrid Wertheim-Heck. Wertheim-Heck stressed the need for an integrated system that examines the specific context of urban food production. When asked from the audience on how urban food production can become profitable, Tsui highlighted the Dutch situation, where food is produced in highly urbanized areas. O’Hara joined her in asking if we could rethink scaling, thinking of multiplication rather than size.
Students from all over the world
The kickoff was followed in person and online by many students interested in participating in the challenge. They have formed interdisciplinary teams who will together create a comprehensive development plan, which will take not only knowledge in agro-horticulture, but also architecture and business. Together, they embarked on a journey that will lead the best of them to a digital visualization of the site, expert consultations and ultimately a grand finale in which the top ten development plans will potentially serve as prototypes for an urban farm. real, affordable and sustainable.
Rector Magnificus Arthur Mol launched the challenge enthusiastically: “What’s exciting here is the social impact. This challenge will be with and for people who do not always have access to food. At the time of publication, registration for the Urben Greenhouse Challenge # 3 is still open. Register now.