Agrotopia, a living lab for high-tech urban horticulture within Europe

I. Pertry, P. Bleyaert, P. Demyttenaere, M. Demeulemeester
In this highly urbanized world, there is a growing demand to supply fresh food into the cities. Urban farming can deliver an answer, but experience is still limited. At the same time, greenhouse horticulturalists face important challenges, such as availability of space and energy costs. To address these challenges, Inagro is building an 8000-m2 research greenhouse, Agrotopia, on the rooftop of a warehouse of REO Veiling, agricultural auction market. Integrated in the city of Roeselare (Belgium), the greenhouse will use resources from the city environment such as energy and water. The greenhouse aims to be energy neutral by exchanging residual heat and electricity with REO Veiling. A 6000-m2 cultivation area to grow vegetables soilless, will allow to develop and demonstrate best practices for hydroponic systems. One compartment will be equipped for multilayer indoor growing with artificial lighting. A 12-m high vertical compartment will allow to explore the potential of growing vegetables along high walls and maximize cultivation area. Specific attention will be paid to minimize energy use by applying the Dutch concept of “Next Generation Growing” and comparing different types of energy screens. Other research topics will include integrated pest management, reuse of nutrient waste solutions, use of low-grade heat from the city waste incinerator, possible applications for non-harvestable plant tissues, etc. The greenhouse will also serve as a living lab to exchange knowledge and develop innovations through co-creation, involving all relevant stakeholders in the innovation process. Technology developers will have the opportunity to engage in this co-creation process or to demonstrate their latest innovations in an exhibition room. Agrotopia will deliver both an inspiring research environment, resulting in innovative solutions for high technological greenhouse horticulture and urban farming, and an explicit example of urban vegetable production.
Pertry, I., Bleyaert, P., Demyttenaere, P. and Demeulemeester, M. (2018). Agrotopia, a living lab for high-tech urban horticulture within Europe. Acta Hortic. 1215, 153-158
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2018.1215.29
urban farming, greenhouse horticulture, rooftop, vertical farming, hydroponics

Acta Horticulturae