The Autonomous Greenhouse Challenge’s winner of WUR Impact Award 2024

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After an eventful afternoon filled with many inspiring impact cases, WUR is glad to announce its new Impact Award winners! The anticipation had been building for weeks, but yesterday it was finally time to announce this year’s winners: the jury Impact Award winner is the Autonomous Greenhouse Challenge. And with over 1100 voters this year, the audience award was presented to the WCDI Seed Systems Thematic Cluster!

During the event, the 5 nominees got the chance to pitch their project in 3 minutes. A short word by rector Carolien Kroeze followed: “With a future that is uncertain, we need responsible changemakers. The nominees present a perfect example of such responsible changemakers.” The new WUR strategic plan has an even stronger focus on societal impact, the Impact Award is a wonderful way to appreciate the extra steps taken towards achieving impact and to emphasize the importance of making an impact.

Then it was time for the jury to reveal the winner of the Impact Award 2024. Chair of the Jury and Wageningen Ambassador Marcel Schuttelaar praised the diversity of the impact cases. He emphasized Wageningen’s role in sustainable and healthy food systems, which was prominently highlighted and clearly reflected in this year’s entries. Overall, he was impressed by the high quality and concrete level of impact of the submissions. He announces the Autonomous Greenhouse Challenge as the winner of the WUR Impact Award 2024. This project was popular with the jury due to its “courageous nature.” It responds to the challenges of the future: sustainable food systems, lack of space and other resources, and the use of AI. All this is brought together. Jury member Richard Harrison said: “With this project, the world can come to Wageningen.” Miriam Nienhuis added: “The innovative approach and the concrete description of the impact of this program are most appealing and an example for others”. Therefore, the Autonomous Greenhouse Challenge received this award with 5000 euros to spend freely on their program. They receive a star on the Walk of Fame on Wageningen Campus.

Silke Hemming was there to receive the award on behalf of the whole team. She will discuss with her team where the money would go, but what she could say for certain was: “We keep on having fun and making a global impact with this initiative”.

This year was also the first time in which the audience could show their support. Voting lines opened early in June and reached over 1100 voters. With convincing figures, the audience award went to WCDI Seed Systems Thematic Cluster. The program reaches smallholder farmers with better seeds to improve food security by empowering all relevant parties. To this, Harrison said: “This project brings Wageningen to the world. This is what WUR stands for. Another beautiful example of a project with real-life impact, and a deserved winner of the Audience Impact Award 2024.”

The team stressed the importance of their partners and together with them, the team wants to find a way to put the 5000 euros into something impactful.

All in all, it was an inspiring afternoon. Thanks to the winners, the other nominees, and all others on their road to impact for bringing science to society on a daily basis.


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