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  • Periodic Report Summary 2 - 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 2 - 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:
The sustainable INAPRO aquaponic system is based on an innovation concept for water, energy and nutrient management. INAPRO Aquaponics features a new water-saving combination principle of aquaculture and hydroponics providing optimal production conditions both for the fish and the plant units.
Modelling approaches were used for optimizing the INAPRO technology with respect to understand the different aspects of the system such as dynamic behaviour, design, construction of components, control and management and the diagnosis of the measured environmental variables. Possible technologies and configurations were weighed in order to maximise the production outcome while minimising the resources water, energy and nutrients and considering economic aspects.
Based on these findings, the INAPRO project partners developed modular configured solutions, scalable and adaptable to local requirements. Experiences and first results gained from the developed test & research facility which was already fully operational and impeccable producing fish and tomatoes during the first project period were considered for equipping and setting up the demonstration objects.
During the second project period the demonstration facilities were constructed in Spain (Murcia), Germany (Waren), Belgium (Rumbeke-Beitem) and China (Shouguang) to prove their feasibility on a larger scale under different geographical and climate conditions. Water and energy optimised system solutions including supporting technologies (sensor-techniques and automation, ICT, production management etc.) were integrated into the demonstration systems. .
The full functionality of all elements and modules has been tested and real time validated over a long term operation at end user sites according to the developed test specification. By continuously integrating data loop-backs from the test results the single modelling approaches as well as the innovation concept has been refined and further developed throughout the second project period.
Within the development of the management execution system (MES) the special needs of the potential end users were particularly and extensively considered. Thus the start up of newcomers in the field of aquaponics can be assisted and promoted.
The INAPRO aquaponic systems are used to demonstrate their practical usability, environmental sustainability and economic competitiveness. To increase awareness and appreciation for the need, potential and benefits of the INAPRO aquaponic system facts and records of the successful implementation and operation of the INAPRO systems were disseminated to policymakers, practitioners and stakeholders. The aim was to convince them of the great potential in water and carbon footprint reduction and thereby mobilise them to promote the innovative INAPRO system.
In order to understand the attractiveness of the INAPRO products and to ensure the successful application of the INAPRO system around the world, the partners have conducted a market analysis focused on different regions.
The INAPRO partners organised seminars directed to end-users to inform and obtain feedbacks from a wide range of actors such as fish farmers, horticulturists, producer associations, cooperatives and consultants. Guided tours and training activities for SMEs took place directly at the INAPRO demonstration sites.
The intention behind these activities is to create new market and job opportunities including a reduction of European and worldwide barriers.
The ambitions of the project meet perfectly well with the recent EU strategies under the Horizon 2020 framework to face the challenges of the dramatic development of the water resource situation in Europe and worldwide. INAPRO also demonstrates 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, contacted and established cooperation to.
Potential Impact:
Based on the results from modelling and from the practical operation of the demonstration systems the INAPRO innovation concept for water, energy and nutrients management in a sustainable and economic viable INAPRO system will be refined throughout the whole project time. The innovation concept has to consider recent conditions and offer a tool or tool package to calculate and propose optimised solutions not only for the running demonstration cases but even for every potential end-user.
The full functionality of all elements and modules will be intensely tested until the end of the project. Test parameters comprise different measurements like business management and economic, technical, technological, biological, chemical and productivity measures as described in the test specification.
The determination of standards has been a crucial task following the analysis and evaluation of project results and went hand in hand with the refinements of the innovation concept including 1) product standards, 2) process standards and 3) management system standards.
Because of the addressed field of water and energy saving sustainable and healthy food production, the INAPRO project has a large potential to interest a growing number of stakeholders in the agricultural and aquacultural field, as well as in the scientific and industrial community, in terms of technical development and business opportunities.
The most important step towards commercialisation of the INAPRO aquaponics system will mainly be accomplished by the appropriately scaled demonstration projects demonstrating practical usability, sustainability and economic competitiveness. The feasibility of water reuse and closed water cycles, the significant reductions of water consumption and the improved waste water treatment with recovery of raw material and nutrients facilitating an enhancement of water quality will be demonstrated and evaluated over two production cycles.
A thorough life cycle analysis (LCA) will proof and verify the viability as well as determine the ecologic and economic boundary conditions of the system and deliver arguments for a successful dissemination, exploitation and marketing of the INAPRO system advantages.
Reaching potential end-users and ensure the market uptake of the INAPRO system is one of the main goals of the project. Relevant information for potential end-users of the INAPRO system includes experiences and conclusions about the functionality as well as economical data of the INPRO system. Further contacts with possible end-users, business stakeholders, entrepreneurs, growers and apprentices, the project partners will be established. The INAPRO partners will continue to organise seminars and excursions directed to end-users, manufacturers and to educational institutions to inform about the INAPRO aquaponic system and to obtain feedbacks from a large spectrum of actors such as fish farmers, horticulturists, producer associations, cooperatives and consultants while discussing benefits, opportunities, risks and bottlenecks of aquaponics, technicalities linked to the construction of aquaponic farms, marketing and distribution of aquaponic products.
Based on the experiences and the test results of the running demonstration systems it will be possible to summarise the key issues necessary to (successfully) run a system and to offer approaches for interested, but only partially experienced end-users, to demonstrate in how far the system can be individually adapted and to give advice to take care of possible dangers. Finally we will develop a standardised user manual for operating the INAPRO system including the raising of awareness that becoming an expert farmer takes time and support that can be offered by INAPRO.
Special attention will be given to the complementarity with further EU funding mechanisms to relate INAPRO to other parallel funded EU projects and to serve as a seed project to initialise follow up activities.

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