Agrotopia Chair

The Agrotopia Chair provides an inspiring framework to encourage and support the development of innovative concepts in the field of greenhouse horticulture and vertical urban horticulture.

Sustainable greenhouse horticulture

The greenhouse horticulture sector is responsible for over 15% of the agricultural production value, even though it covers a limited area of just under 2000 hectares. Yet there is a steady decrease in the amount of land used for greenhouses in Flanders. This trend is due to different factors, including tension between, on the one hand, the establishment of greenhouse horticulture, and the regional and local policy on spatial planning and rising production costs on the other.

Back in 2003, a Flemish action plan was already launched giving a new impetus to the sector, as evidenced by the big growth in productivity of fruiting vegetables .

However the issue is still relevant and new solutions are still needed. The issues of spatial integration as well as production costs can potentially be tackled by an ambitious integration of greenhouse horticulture with other functions and sectors, and also by focusing on innovations that enable greenhouse space to be used in multiple ways.

In 2018, Inagro will therefore open a new site for research and demonstration, focusing on multiple use of greenhouse space, innovative technologies for saving or recuperating energy, logistical support from robots and smart farming, and fine-tuning cultivation control. The infrastructure has to function as a platform within which technology firms can work together with knowledge centres and growers, following the principles of co-creation. The idea here is to create a living lab for high-tech urban farming technology.

Through this chair, Ghent University, REO Veiling and Inagro are planning to create the necessary prerequisites to keep fostering greenhouse horticulture through research, and also to demonstrate innovative applications in a unique pilot plant.

“This is in line with the sustainable development of greenhouse horticulture that we have in mind. Of course this does also involve a number of technological challenges. I am convinced that, together with the Flemish knowledge economy, we are in a position to find answers to these. With this new form of greenhouse horticulture we can seek out new opportunities in the sector. And this also perfectly aligns with the current concepts of urban agriculture that are increasingly gaining ground. In this way, we can help come up with possible solutions to the question of how to provide safe and fresh food to growing urban populations.” -- Bart Nayaert (Inagro chair)


Through this chair, Ghent University, REO Veiling and Inagro seek to create an inspiring framework with a reputation both in Belgium and abroad for its visionary concepts related to vertical and urban farming.


  • To foster a broad base of international support among growers and consumers for high-tech urban agriculture and vertical plant production in multi-layer cultivation in order to accelerate implementation of these agricultural innovations.
  • To support the improved sustainability of greenhouse horticulture in Flanders by developing innovative techniques that enable increased profitability in an urbanised environment (with limited space), and of the circular economy.
  • To implement academic research in a proactive and constructive manner in order to deliver economic and ecological value.





Prof. Jan Pieters, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering.

Jan Pieters is a full professor affiliated with the Biosystems technology research group in the department of Plants and Crops. His research focuses on agricultural and horticultural technology with a focus on precision agriculture and climate regulation in horticultural structures. Within the chair, he also leads the steering committee which includes several professors as active members, and which brings together expertise from diverse domains in vertical (urban) horticulture.