Priva Creating A Climate For Growth

Image sourced from Priva

Image sourced from Priva


Agritecture sat down with Jan Westra, Strategic Business Developer at Priva, prior to Agritecture Xchange. Jan will be speaking on the panel, Education, Training, & Outreach in AgTech.

Meet Jan Westra at Agritecture Xchange, Buy your tickets today

Tell us a little about yourself! What sparked your interest in urban farming and led you to Priva and the mission of “creating a climate for growth”?

It started with a small announcement about a project by Amsterdam-based ARCAM, an architecture institute, and the New York branch of the AIA called Farming the City, in the beginning of 2011. They started the conversation on food, cities, and architecture. Because I was looking for opportunities in North America for building management systems, this sparked my interest in finding a cross-over between the built environment and the Priva knowledge of horticulture.

By adapting creating a climate for growth, we mean all the varieties: growing food, growing the business, helping our partners to grow their business. Apart from this one, I got a lengthy call from Gary Wozniak of Recovery Park in Detroit about his plans for growing food in the city and creating jobs. After the AIA project, I went to Detroit to check out his project (and am still somewhat involved). Seeing his surroundings, it became more than a business opportunity, it became a personal mission as well to provide food in the cities that is worth eating.

What can we expect to hear from you in your intervention at the “Education, Training, & Outreach in AgTech” panel?

Part of knowledge in growing food can be transferred to technology (what we aim to do at Priva), but dealing with living products, a green thumb and tech knowledge stays instrumental for a healthy business. Therefore we actively support schools and universities on all levels to improve or expand their curriculum. We also invested in horticulture training centers in Guatemala, Mexico, and China, whilst developing on-line courses as well.

With your years of experience in the AgTech business, what challenges have you faced in furthering AgTech development and use? And, what opportunities do you see rising in the industry for increased adoption?

At first, it was met with skepticism: it’s for hippies and foodies, don’t bother us. The challenge is of course technical (energy, lighting), but also because of that, the business model is a tough one.

One thing that struck me was that a lot of farms were working on new inventions and IP instead of growing food, where several ideas are already implemented in the greenhouse industry. I made it my task to create awareness of the knowledge and technology already available in the world-wide village that is called the greenhouse industry.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell our audience prior to watching you address the panel?

Food is more than fuel. Remember the book by Caroline Steel, the Hungry City, about the influence of food supply lines on the city structure. Apart from that: at Priva, we heavily advocate for bringing back the ‘green belts’ around cities where fresh food is grown close to the city. In these times, resilience is back in the discussions as you can expect.


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