Urban Greenhouse Challenge will be held in Russia for the first time

Tomsk Polytechnic University will become the first Russian university to host the international competition of student projects Urban Greenhouse Challenge: Reforest. The competition is aimed at innovative technologies for forest recovery after wildfires and deforestation.

“For the last few years wildfires have been the topic of everybody’s concern. In Siberia alone, fires burned over 5 million hectares of forest in the summer of 2019, and in Australia, about 6.3 million hectares in 2019-2020. This is a global challenge that causes enormous damage to forests. According to researchers, through conventional methods it could take at least a hundred years to restore forests devastated by wildfires. However, there are some modern solutions and instruments that can speed up and streamline restoration”, says Sergey Turanov, coordinator of the competition and Head of Agrobiophotonics laboratory.


Urban Greenhouse Challenge was initiated by Wageningen University & Research (the Netherlands), one of the leaders in the world rankings in Ecology, Agriculture, Food Science and Industry. The first competition was held in 2018 in Amsterdam and brought together 23 teams from 40 universities representing 10 countries. The second competition was in 2019 in China with 53 teams from 79 universities representing 28 countries.
For the first time, the Russian university has become the organizer of Urban Greenhouse Challenge. The major media partner of the competition is “Social Navigator” of the International News Agency “Russia Today”.

The idea of holding this competition at Tomsk Polytechnic University appeared long ago, but the final agreement was reached at the end of 2019, when the researchers from Wageningen University came to Tomsk to get familiar with some engineering and scientific solutions of TPU in the field of agriculture.

“TPU has a huge potential for “smart” agriculture and agrobiophotonics. The university is engaged in forecasting wildfires and boosting robotic agriculture. We study the impact of radiation parameters on the growth and development of plants, create systems for automating lighting and microclimate conditions, and develop optical diagnostic methods of plant vegetation. Together with our colleagues, we are dealing with rapid growth of coniferous trees. Modern solutions can significantly speed up the process of growing seedlings. Thus, in ordinary conditions, it takes several years to grow trees, and in fully controlled enclosed areas with the use of special technologies, seedlings can be grown even in three months”, Sergey Turanov explains.

Students from any country can participate in the international competition as part of teams composed of 3 to 10 people. Participants can be undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate students of any field of study. Recent university graduates (who have not completed their studies until July 2019) can join Urban Greenhouse Challenge. The language of the competition is English. The prize fund is 10,000 US dollars. The top three projects will receive 4,000, 2,000 and 1.000 US dollars respectively. “Encouragement prizes” will be awarded to the teams that will offer interesting and non-traditional solutions for one or more cases.

Participants can register until February 28, 2021, on the project official website:

“Within a few months, participants will develop city farms – autonomous greenhouses for growing huge volumes of coniferous and deciduous seedlings in vertically stacked layers. Students will have to a) develop the design of a greenhouse with efficient and eco-friendly materials, b) offer solutions for the use of natural energy sources, c) propose some robotic options, d) design outdoor and interior lighting, e) choose the optimal size and shape of vertically stacked layers. To implement their projects, all participants will have to keep in mind the principles of lean, environmentally friendly and/or waste-free production”, says the Urban Greenhouse Challenge coordinator.

All work will be organized online. Experts from both TPU and other institutions will collaborate with participants. In addition, as part of the competition, the organizers plan to hold lectures and workshops on the topics that meet the tasks to be addressed by participants. The timeline will appear on the competition website.

“The competition aims to attract talented young people from different countries to deal with challenges relevant for the world ecology and economy. We will try not to limit the participants’ imagination, thus expecting both realistic and fantastically futuristic ideas. Moreover, in parallel we are looking for real partners to develop this topic further. It is quite possible that the best ideas of Urban Greenhouse Challenge will be implemented with the direct participation of the authors,” says Maxim Volkov, Head of TPU Division of International Cooperation.

The competition results will be published until June 2021.
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Urban Greenhouse Challenge is timed to the 125th anniversary of Tomsk Polytechnic University.