Wageningen University & Research: The modular concept of LettUs Design wins the last edition of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge

LettUs Design has won the Grand Finals of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge and will receive a sum of €10,000 for their modular and inclusive urban farming design. The other winners are USC Stack and AMS Caterpillars. AMS Caterpillars has also won the local residents’ award.

It was the third and the last time that Wageningen University & Research organised the Urban Greenhouse Challenge. This year’s edition was in close collaboration with the University of the District of Columbia (USA) because the urban farm concepts were to be situated in Ward 7, Washington D.C. Earlier editions were organised in Amsterdam (2018) and Dongguan, China (2020).

Year-round sustainable & affordable food production
Participants were invited to develop a concept that ensures year-round sustainable and affordable food production. This year’s Challenge was called the ‘social impact’ edition; more than in previous editions, students had to take into account the social aspects of the locality. Ward 7 is one of the city’s most diverse lower-income neighbourhoods. Students were challenged to come up with designs that would generate incomes for the local residents and make a difference in their lives. Two of these local residents, Ms. Jimell Sanders and Commissioner Holmes, were present in the brand new Omnia Dialogue Centre on Wageningen Campus to hand over the local residents’ award to Team AMS Caterpillars.

Replicable design customisable to other communities
The international jury that chose the winner of the Challenge consisted of Nona Yehia (founder and CEO Vertical Harvest), Thera Rohling (Program director Sustainable Urban Delta), Patricia Paiva (board member International Society for Horticultural Sciences) and Harry Webers (Wageningen Ambassador). In justifying their verdict, the jury praised LettUs Design for proposing ‘by far the most inclusive proposal, from the outset.’ ‘As the team indicated, it’s not just them who are the architects and experts, it’s also the community. They took on a replicable modular approach in terms of food production, employment and education. But what really drove it home was the idea that this process and approach could be replicable and customized to other communities.

The concept that made the biggest impression on the local residents, that of Team AMS Caterpillars, on the other hand, was valued for ‘its clear focus on creating social impact.’ ‘It is convincing and coherent, and it offers innovative solutions to local challenges. It is a very attractive design with a lot of functionality built into each room. The building has a modest profile and would be considered a landmark due to its unique design.’

Winning team – LettUs Design
The third edition of the Challenge started in November 2021 with 30 student teams from 70 Universities in 20 countries joining in. After the first selection, 20 teams made it to the second round where they received coaching and advice from over 30 partners supporting the Challenge. Ten teams were selected for the finals, including teams from Colombia, the USA, Peru, China and the Netherlands.

Last edition
This was the last edition of the Urban Greenhouse Challenge, an international and interdisciplinary student competition initiated in 2018 by the Wageningen University & Research with the aim of catalysing innovation in the realm of urban farming. The Challenge inspired many young minds to rethink the way we produce food in the cities and influenced their future career choices. It brought students in contact with leading companies in the horticultural sector and gave them a chance to learn and inspire one another.

In the coming years Wageningen University & Research will initiate a new Challenge series, Nature-based Future Challenge, promoting the concept of nature-based thinking as a foundation for making decisions in landscape planning.