Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Young start-up Urban Crops wins Venture Academy

A jar, filled with water, that functions as an aquarium for fishes while plants or flowers grow on top. Urban Crops, a young start-up company, creates small eco-systems in jars by using aquaponic systems. The 'Ecojar' is a modern decoration in living-rooms and office spaces, but also purifies the air indoors. The fishes in the Ecojar deliver fertilizer for the plants, while plants purify the water. During the last meeting of the Venture Academy, a jury of well-experienced businessmen and investors chose Urban Crops as the company with the most promising idea and best business-model of the start-ups that were created during the Venture Academy.


The Venture Academy of the Centre for Innovation in The Hague encourages students to establish their own start-up businesses, not only to make profits but also to tackle social problems. The Centre for Innovation detects the growing demand among students to complement the academic skills that are taught at universities today, and to gap the bridge between student-life and the job market. The Venture Academy supports students by offering workshops that provide them with knowledge and methods to build their business skills. 

Sjoerd Louwaars:   "We stimulate young entrepreneurs to first study a societal dilemma, after which we challenge them to find solutions for it. Hence, we do not start with a product or solution. This way of thinking appeals to students from humanities and social sciences."

How to start a business?

During a 20-week during program students were encouraged to come up with an idea, develop a business-plan and, most importantly, turn their theories into practise. The students were not rewarded with course credits but instead they received practical knowledge to create a successful start-up.  The idea for the Venture Academy sprung after the Centre for Innovation started the minor Entrepreneurship for Society for students of Leiden University. The Venture Academy resulted in actual entrepreneurship: four new start-up companies were created and are in business. During the last meeting of the program on June 19, the four companies pitched their business-plans to the jury that chose Urban Crops as the most promising company, closely followed by the three other start-ups.


The idea for the Ecojar was developed after students began to experiment with aquaponic systems at the Aquaponic Lab of . Later on, a small group of students became participants of the minor Entrepreneurship for Society and created, with the gained knowledge about aquaponic systems, a business-concept for the Ecojar. The Ecojar was selected as the best business-concept during the minor.

Urban Crops, the start-up behind the Ecojar, took the idea to the market. With the Ecojar, inventor Boris Roodenburg wants to raise consciousness about our eco-system and food production. His goal for the future is to create large closed eco-systems where fishes and plants can live in. 

Other start-ups

Crazy Greens

Crazygreens.nl is an online shop started by Yemaya Amadora (American), Daan Meily (Dutch) and Hendrik Oye (German). Their company delivers imperfect looking fruits and vegetables to consumers. The start-up aims to positively impact communities and contribute to greater sustainability, and strives to become an alternative to traditional supermarkets that throw away imperfects fruits and vegetables. www.crazygreens.nl


NOC is a social media service created to meet new people with whom you share common and everyday interests. The service is provided through IOS, Android and web platform. Inventors of NOC are Matteo Consonni and Luca Spagnolo, two friends from Italy who study in The Hague. They experienced as international students that it is hard to broaden their informal network and to make new friends through Facebook. NOC, therefore, links people with common interests and provides them with a practical tool to create meet-ups in the city. In August NOC will be used during the introduction week for international students of Leiden University.


Serious gaming has been used in higher education, but to often the designers of these educational games lack the needed game design skills and fail to provide true game elements. Two years ago Playcademics' founder Victor van de Poll developed a serious game for his high school economics class. He and his co-workers now want to offer a product that is a true serious game; they focus on simulation in order to create a complementation of the traditional means of learning in classes and academic courses.

This website uses cookies.  More information.