In 2015, Inagro and the Province of West Flanders started the construction of Agrotopia, a 9,000 m2 greenhouse for practical research and the development of innovative techniques for glasshouse and urban horticulture. The thirteen research compartments offer sufficient space to develop, test and demonstrate new technologies.
At 9000 m², the roof greenhouse is the largest in Europe, but it does not contain a grain of sand. That is because the greenhouse is a test environment for hydroponics: a form of horticulture in which vegetables are grown on water instead of soil. This form of cultivation produces high-quality crops while reducing the impact on the environment. It helps growers meet current challenges in efficient growing practices, circular water use and crop protection, and provides benefits such as higher yields and ergonomics.
Thanks to its location on the roof of the REO Auction in Roeselare on the edge of town, the greenhouse is the ideal location to explore the possibilities of professional urban farming. The facade greenhouse allows experimentation with optimum use of space, growing in height, multilayer cultivation, various types of growing gutters and new more sustainable substrates. At the same time, Agrotopia manages to interweave agriculture, industry and the city in various ways. Innovative water recycling and reuse of urban residual heat are just a few examples.
Producers and buyers of fresh vegetables are also located nearby, making the rooftop greenhouse a hub for knowledge exchange and demonstration. For this purpose, the expo zone, demo set-ups in the cultivation compartments, the urban garden square and the auditorium are provided. In total, some ten companies will share their technology or knowledge with the sector. Thanks to the visitor corridors, citizens can also take a closer look at agriculture.
Agrotopia's appeal extends far beyond the borders of West Flanders or even Belgium. This unique location attracts researchers from all over Europe and has already received official recognition from the European Network of Living Labs.