In the Agrotopia Living Lab, Inagro works on innovation pathways, from ideas to co-creative validation in a practice-oriented research environment.
We use co-creation processes to develop, test and further improve new greenhouse horticultural technologies and demonstrate installations. The associated technical and practical knowledge helps to implement systems in practice.
The living lab can also explore the possibilities of professional urban farming thanks to Agrotopia’s unique location on the roof of the warehouse of REO Veiling (agricultural auction market) and on the edge of the city of Roeselare (Belgium). This allows to synergize with its surroundings by investigating how the functions of agriculture, industry (e.g. residual heat) and the city are intertwined.
Right from the start, we actively involve growers and other stakeholders in the innovation process with working groups, brainstorming sessions, demonstrations and workshops. At the same time, you can always rely on our multidisciplinary team and our extensive experience in greenhouse horticulture. This immediately ensures that the innovation is right for the target group, which in turn improves the market introduction.
Our co-creative approach was rewarded with European recognition. The European Network of Living Labs (ENOLL) recognized Agrotopia as a Living Lab in 2020. The ENOLL defines living labs as user-oriented and real-life innovation environments where new solutions arise through co-creation in research and innovation, with the involvement of different stakeholders. The end user is central. As an ENOLL member, Agrotopia applies those principles.
The 9000 m² greenhouse and its high-tech facilities can accommodate innovative research at the European top level. The 13 research compartments are representative of the modern hydroponic cultivation of fruit vegetables and leafy vegetables. They offer sufficient space to develop, test and demonstrate new technologies in conditions that are comparable to real life.
High-tech facilities rule in Agrotopia. They allow crops to grow in optimal conditions and lead the way to a greenhouse horticulture of the future that is more sustainable and efficient. For example, Inagro’s double screen cloth and ventilation jets apply more sustainable cultivation principles that use heating energy more efficiently. A climate control computer automatically meets the crop’s needs for heat, light and humidity in each compartment.
Inagro can also explore the possibilities of professional urban farming thanks to Agrotopia’s unique location on the roof of the REO Veiling crate warehouse and on the edge of the city of Roeselare. The flexible and ultramodern facility includes an elevation greenhouse that is twelve metres high and allows experimentation with optimal use of space, vertical farming, multilayer cultivation, various types of growing gutters and new, more sustainable substrates. At the same time Agrotopia aims to synergise with its surroundings by investigating how the functions of agriculture, industry and the city are intertwined. Some examples of this are innovative water recycling and the reuse of urban residual heat. Agrotopia relies on two external sources of heat: REO Veiling’s combined heat and power (CHP) system and the MIROM heat network.
The rooftop greenhouse is located close to the producers and buyers of fresh vegetables, so it is also a unique hub for knowledge exchange and demonstrations with an expo zone, demo installations in cultivation compartments. Collaboration with other players is essential to increase the impact of innovation and optimisation in the agricultural sector in West Flanders and beyond. That is exactly why the rooftop greenhouse has been set up as a meeting place for researchers, advisers, growers, knowledge institutions, governments and tech companies. The design integrates research, demonstration and knowledge exchange in one greenhouse structure.