Jasper den Besten, a professor at HAS University of Applied Sciences (‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands), shared his opinion on Urban Greenhouse Challenge: Reforest, an international competition of student projects.
The competition is held at a Russian university for the first time. Its main host is Tomsk Polytechnic University. The registration of student teams is currently ongoing on the official website of the event. The teams will compete for the prize pool of $10 000.
Professor Jasper den Besten, an expert in selective breeding, plant physiology, and greenhouse vegetable production became one of the lecturers of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge. He gave a lecture on a Dutch approach to high-tech horticulture in greenhouses and vertical farms, as well as explained why such events could be useful not only for the participants but also for the field development in general.
“Such competitions provide an ideal opportunity to create a trial product at the early stages of research and development. The things that non-specialists can create with a set of modern tools such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and so on, are amazing, even when they do not have enough knowledge in agricultural sciences and technologies,” the professor says.
“I assume we as professionals can do much better than the teams participating in the competition, however, we actually need them to open our eyes!”
He adds that the Urban Greenhouse Challenge is also important because nowadays, many young people are disengaging from agriculture while attracting new talents is so important for the industry. Moreover, the tasks set by the competition help to bring agriculture and young people closer together, create an unusual learning environment and convince students and young scientists that they can become professionals in high-tech agriculture.
“I hope that the students participating in the competition will put forward interesting initiatives on the development of their city environment without waiting for the participation of municipal authorities, but developing their own business ideas and involving people living there,” the expert notes.
Regarding the opportunity of practical implementation of the ideas proposed during the competition, Jasper den Besten recommends paying attention to the incentive and subsidy programs, however, not over-focusing on them.
“Do not wait for an opportunity, just work within your capabilities and go a little beyond the boundaries. Start working and see whether you qualify for a subsidy. I saw how many young people in the Netherlands started their business when everyone thought it was impossible. When you really want something, when you really put a lot of effort into your ideas, when you ask the right people to fill in the gaps in your knowledge and experience, it is really possible to create much more than you think,” the professor emphasizes.
The Urban Greenhouse Challenge: Reforest at TPU was supported by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of the Russian Federation, Nuffic Neso Russia, an official representative of the Dutch higher education in Russia, Schneider Electric, a global expert n energy management and automation with branches in more than 100 countries and iFarm, a Russian vertical farms startup.
The main media partner is Social Navigator, an outreach project of Rossiya Segodnya international information agency.
The main task for the participants is to develop a project for a city farm, an autonomous complex for growing seedlings of coniferous and deciduous trees on multilayer shelf systems.