A lot of people have been asking me what I’ve been doing in Brussels these past months.

Well, officially It’s not a job, officially I’m an intern. Meaning that after 3 years of actively searching for a job in the Vertical Farming Industry, I do not yet have a contract….buuuuut, it’s looking very very very good. To be an intern might sounds a bit lame…but to be honest it feels like the right position for me at the moment and you’ll very soon learn why 😉

This photo has nothing to do with the blog post, I just wanted to show you the new haircut I got at my new Moroccan Barber in Brussels

So, I’m working as an intern at BIGH (Building Integrated Greenhouses) in Brussels. This startup is planning on putting a lot of aquaponic greenhouses on top of roofs, while applying the circular economy principles.

The First Project of BIGH is a 2000m2 greenhouse, combined with a 2000m2 outdoor garden on the roof of the Foodmet, on the Abattoir-site in Anderlecht (Brussels). We’re officially starting to build the outdoor garden oin April, and the whole project should be finished by the start of 2017.

I cannot exactly tell you what my role is at BIGH, simply because like with many startups, there’s so much shit that needs to be done that it is very difficult to define it. So you’ll have to go with: “I’m helping as much as I can”.

Design for the first BIGH greenhouse

I’ve been hanging around the BIGH-team for quite some time now. And in the beginning everything was moving forward, yet progress was very slow and it didn’t really feel like it was going to happen. But, that changed completely around two months ago, when Noémie joined the team. She is a super sweet and slim French lady, yet like a raging bull she came in and attacked the big heap of un-organised “To Do’s” that had been piling up since a couple of months. She rammed that mountain head on and started ripping those wavering “To Do’s” apart, lined them up one by one, and toppled the first one over to start a chain reaction that hasn’t been seen since Domino Day, 13th of November 2009.

I watched this inspiring phenomena unfold and tried to help wherever I could. Yet, while working alongside Noémie – or better said – in the slipstream of Noémie, I could not help but feel another, less empowering sentiment gently cutting away my self-esteem. It was… the ego. Noémie is only 1 year older than me and she showed me what skills, energy and determination I have been missing all the foregoing years of my vertical farming quest.

Noémie and Astrid during our BIGH trip to Berlin. Being a parent, she says, really helped her to prioritise and be much more efficient.
Noémie getting a tour in the ECF aquaponics farm in Berlin by Christian. And don’t worry, the fish have enough space, they just like to say hello when someone peaks over the edge of their tank.

Now, two months later, the feeling of not being good enough still hasn’t completely disappeared. Yet, as strong as the dark side of my mind can be, I’m forcing it to look at it from a more positive angle. Working alongside Noémie is hard for my self-worth to handle, yes, but I’ve been learning a mighty fucking lot too. And if I can keep this up, if I can keep on learning and growing like this, I soon might find myself doing the job I’ve always dreamed of doing.


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