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  • Periodic Report Summary 1 - INAPRO (Innovative model and demonstration based water management for resource efficiency in integrated multitrophic agriculture and aquaculture systems)

INAPRO Report Summary

Project ID: 619137
Funded under: FP7-ENVIRONMENT
Country: Germany

Periodic Report Summary 1 - INAPRO (Innovative model and demonstration based water management for resource efficiency in integrated multitrophic agriculture and aquaculture systems)

Project Context and Objectives:
The growing world population and therefore the rising demand for food increases the pressure on land use, water resources and ecosystems. INAPRO consequently addresses these challenges by implementing new technical and technological approaches into an innovative aquaponic system which allows a water and energy-saving, nearly emission free, sustainable production of fish and vegetables to contribute markedly to food security for the 21st century.
Aquaponics is a green technology that couples aquaculture (production of fish) and horticulture (production of vegetables) in one system. Wastewater from the aquaculture unit is used for the nutrition of the plants in the hydroponic unit and in parallel reducing the sewage of the fish production part, too.
The project aims at a real breakthrough for these systems towards commercialization. This will be achieved by a model based optimisation of the aquaponic concept in respect to water consumption and quality, environmental impact, waste avoidance, CO2 release and nutrients recycling, energy efficiency, management efforts and finally costs as well as by the integration of new technologies. Water management in aquaponic systems is the main topic of the INAPRO project and thus the emphasis of the concept lies on the water usage and circulation.
The INAPRO aquaponic system concept utilizes the basic idea of the ASTAF-PRO technology which enhanced conventional aquaponic systems using one single aquaponic recirculation system by separating the fish and the plant parts (Kloas et al., 2015: A new concept for aquaponic systems to improve sustainability, increase productivity, and reduce environmental impacts in: Aquaculture environment interactions. doi: 10.33547aei 00146). The major advantage of this double recirculation system is the fact that optimum conditions can be provided independently for both parts to increase productivity and to prevent any adverse interactions between plant and fish units.
Furthermore, the process water reuse is drastically improved by regaining the evaporated and plant evapo-transpirated water via cooling traps and returning it into the aquaculture unit to minimize the overall water consumption of the system. By effective coupling of both parts of the system the water consumption will be reduced to less than 3% of the system volume per day.
Both units of the INAPRO aquaponic system benefit from each other, thus setting a new standard in sustainable food production. INAPRO provides a system adaptable to various local conditions and to a wide range of solutions, from rural large-scale agricultural facilities to small urban farming kits, for a food production without using any pesticides.
INAPRO will cover the whole value chain from research to market orientated applications of that new aquaponic approach; therefore the main focus will be given to innovations leading to demonstration objects within the duration of the project. One crucial point of the concept-based demonstration objects is to prove the viability of the resource-effective water, energy and nutrient management technologies of INAPRO in various regions both in rural and urban areas. Thus the INAPRO system offers a potential economic advantage while simultaneously reducing the water and carbon footprint.
The INAPRO project will be mainly determined by the requirements and demands of industrial SMEs and end users. The manufacturing SMEs involved in this project are the driving forces in research, development and demonstration, scientific partners are mainly responsible for experimental development, testing, monitoring and documentation.
The overall goal of the project is to mobilise industry, member states and stakeholders to promote the new and innovative INAPRO technology. The dissemination activities (to policy, public and end-users) will open new market opportunities and improve the market access inside and outside Europe for producers and technology suppliers.

Project Results:
During the first 18 months of INAPRO all foreseen tasks were accomplished and all deliverables were submitted. Thus all essential elements for construction and operation of the demonstration objects have been elaborated.
In the first working step the capability of present aquaponic systems to cope with on-going and future water-related challenges was considered. Gaps and opportunities in existing technologies concerning the whole water supply chain in aquaculture and horticulture were identified.
Integrated computer models were used to optimise the aquaponic concept with respect to water consumption, water quality, environmental impact, waste avoidance and nutrient recycling.
The modelling approaches facilitated the application of the aquaponic technology with respect to understanding the dynamic behaviour, design and construction of components, control and management of the integrated aquaponic system and the diagnosis of the measured environmental variables in the system, and alarming. Possible technologies and their configurations were weighed in order to maximise the production of fish and tomatoes while minimising the resources water, energy and nutrients and considering economic aspects.
A technical and technological core solution of the whole INAPRO system (functional scheme) was developed by expert modelling. Based on this expert model different models were implemented to investigate the internal mechanisms of the system and to demonstrate how different configurations can be evaluated, optimised, controlled and managed, increasing the chances of future large-scale production in environmentally sustainable aquaponics systems:
(1) The dynamic model for design and insight describes the dynamic water and energy balances as well as the nitrogen-dynamics, (2) the dynamic model for optimisation and control is applied for simulation, management and control purposes, (3) sensor models have been developed, (4) the fish production cyclogram models the temporal schedule of fish production from the time of stocking until marketing to calculate an optimum production flow and usage of the resources, (5) a model for the estimation of renewable energy potentials from different sources under the consideration of geographic and climatic conditions was developed, and (6) the energy optimisation on the basis of a simulation program has been modelled.
An innovation concept for water, energy and nutrients management in a sustainable and economic viable INAPRO system has been developed based on the modelling results.
The aquaponic modules of water management, energy management and of system control and management were designed and practically developed. The decisions for the product design and construction details are made depending on the modelling results.
A first approach of a water and energy optimised aquaponics system including supporting technologies (sensor-techniques and automation, ICT, production management etc.) was integrated. Optimum conditions for each production part are monitored by sensors and adjusted by a sophisticated automated management system. The developed test & research facility in Abtshagen (Germany) is already fully operational and is impeccable producing tilapia and tomatoes. Experiences and test results are used for equipping and setting up the demonstration objects.
The work related to the updating of the models is just in progress so that the resulting functional models of the devices, facilities and technologies are in line with reality.
Last, but not least, much emphasis has been given to communication and dissemination in the first period. The project website was online by mid-2014. Several newsletters, leaflets and presentations have publicised INAPRO. For strengthening complementarity with other EU funding mechanisms the project team cooperated with further EU funding mechanisms as described below. The project goals and ideas were widely presented and distributed at several meetings and fairs.

Potential Impact:
The collaborative project INAPRO challenges the concept of recent water, energy and nutrient management solutions in rural areas (with aquaculture and horticulture production) and urban areas (urban farming) to cope with global demands and to exploit all available opportunities of resource efficiency.
The most important step towards commercialisation of the INAPRO aquaponics system will mainly be accomplished by appropriately scaled demonstration projects in rural water management and partially urban self-supply farms demonstrating practical usability and economic competitiveness. The potential and feasibility of water reuse and closed water cycles, the significant reductions of water consumption in INAPRO systems and the improved waste water treatment with recovery of raw material and nutrients facilitating an enhancement of water quality will be demonstrated. The planned integration of alternative energies and optimization of recirculation technologies will minimise energy demands and operational costs.
Demonstrations will be adaptable and scalable to various European and international sites with similar or different local conditions. In the upcoming months, INAPRO large-scale demonstration facilities will be built and evaluated under different geographical conditions: in Waren (Germany), in Murcia (Spain) and in Shouguang (China). The demonstration facilities will be running by early 2016. These sites will be used to mobilise industry, member states and stakeholders into promoting the INAPRO aquaponic system. The aim is to convince potential users, investors and consumers of this innovative and advantageous technology. Furthermore smaller scaled urban INAPRO systems will be constructed and used to spread the ideas and to demonstrate the possibilities of sustainable resource effective and nearly emission free food production and urban self-supply.
The project is mainly determined by the requirements and demands of industrial SMEs and end users. End users are continuously involved as consultants and advisors. Necessary corrections, adjustments or refinement solutions are worked out in close cooperation between all partners.
The ambitions of the project meet perfectly well with the recent EU strategies under the new Horizon 2020 framework to face the challenges of the dramatic development of the water resource situation in Europe and worldwide. The project particularly aims at supporting the Innovation Union with the EIP on Water as one of its key initiatives and will consequently be linked to the EIP Action group WIRE “Water & Irrigated agriculture Resilient Europe”. During the project a continuous work within and communication with WIRE ensures regularly exchange of experiences as members of the Action Group are encouraged to open their sites for other members.
INAPRO will also demonstrate links and synergies with related major water investment/implementation projects at local, regional or national level to help leverage the demand side.
Several European funding mechanisms and projects have been identified and contacted. An intensive collaboration has been developed with the COST Action FA1305 “EU Aquaponic Hub” which serves as platform for exchanging experiences. The coordinator and some partners regularly participate in the meetings to interact with different stakeholders.
In close cooperation with IGB, the beneficiary Tilamur successfully applied for the project “EASY” under the H2020 SME Instrument – Feasibility Assessment (phase I). The project “EASY” focuses on the development of organic aquaculture feed formula which minimises the use of fishmeal and fish oil and simultaneously reduces the production costs. The results could be essential for the investigations within INAPRO and further development of the technology.

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