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Product, Service & Design Innovation
William McDonough + Partners, GXN Unveil Vision for 'Silicon Valley' of Agriculture in Denmark

William McDonough + Partners and GXN — an internal division of Danish architectural practice 3XN that works with applied architectural research in green materials and building technologies — have partnered to develop a master plan for the Agro Food Park (AFP) near Aarhus, Denmark. The project aims to create a geographic hub for agricultural innovation; AFP will incorporate the benefits of urban density with the proximity of agricultural test fields in an open campus where academic and commercial businesses can collaborate, grow and prosper. The project aims to not only benefit Danish agriculture, but also serve as a benchmark for future global food industry development.

AFP, owned by The Danish Agriculture & Food Council and originally opened in 2009, currently spans 44,000m2 and is home to 75 companies totaling nearly 1,000 employees. The master plan - which was developed with the collaboration of 3XN Architects, BCVA and Urland - intends to expand the facility by an additional 280,000m2 in multiple phases over the next 30 years. It will create synergies among the many existing tenants, while building an ecosystem inviting new entities to further strengthen products and expertise developed within the hub.

“We are privileged to have been chosen by GXN to collaborate on what will become an entrepreneurial ecosystem for addressing the future of food and plant resources,” William McDonough said.

Resource Management and Innovation

William McDonough + Partners and GXN identified five focus areas that can continuously help AFP in developing an eco-effective design approach: healthy materials, clean energy, increased biodiversity, healthy air, and clean water.

“We are in the ecological century. After decades of unthinking destruction of climate, water and land, now is the time to restore and replenish the biological resources of our planet for all of Earth’s species,” McDonough remarked. “A carbon-positive city demonstration at the Agro Food Park can be the embodiment of this new century – its clean water, air, soil and energy serving as a continuous source of economic and ecological innovation and regeneration, redefining how we can enact a positive and abundant future.”

Embracing agro-urban ecosystem design, the AFP treats urban and agricultural development together as a unified, productive and restorative ecosystem. By integrating the carbon cycle and other ecological processes into large scale urban systems and their surroundings – buildings and energy flows, water cycles and wastewater treatment, land use and food production – the AFP creates economic value within the urban and agricultural infrastructure.

Space for Success

Believing that defined public space, connectivity and dense urban structure are fundamental to AFP’s mission, the master plan comprises three key elements:

  • The Lawn is the central communal green space that anchors the development. It functions as a ‘showroom’ for agricultural and food production experimentation, as well as a place for recreation and relaxation.
  • The Strip is the AFP’s main street and features the character and density of an urban space. Open and active ground floor facades along the Strip will ensure a dynamic environment throughout the day.
  • Five Plazas bind clusters of buildings together and create neighborhoods with individual identities.

“Innovation occurs best when knowledge is concentrated in clusters and cross-pollinated,” said GXN director Kasper Guldager Jensen. “By linking food production to urban life, we have tried to create an environment where people, knowledge and ideas meet. The dream is to create the framework for agriculture’s answer to Silicon Valley.”

AFP is just one more example of the innovation and holistic thinking the region is applying to improving urban life. ReGen Villages, a tech-integrated and regenerative residential real estate development company, has created a series of self-sustaining eco-communities. The model takes a holistic approach, combining technologies that include energy-positive homes, renewable energy and energy storage, door-step high-yield organic food production, vertical farming, aquaponics/aeroponics, water management and waste-to-resource systems. The first 100-home Regen Village opened this summer in Almere, The Netherlands, to be followed by sites across Northern Europe in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Germany.


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