HypoWave+ – Implementation of a hydroponic system as a sustainable innovation for resource-efficient agricultural water reuse

Regional competitions over the resource water are not uncommon. Due to climate change, urbanization and pollution of water resources, these conflicts of use could intensify in the coming decades. Even in Germany that is rich in water, conflicts of use are becoming more frequent. This is why new concepts and processes for water reuse are needed. In the BMBF research project HypoWave, hydroponic plant production using water reuse was piloted for the first time between 2016 and 2020. In the HypoWave+ project, the research network in the Gifhorn region is supporting the large-scale implementation of a hydroponic system using water reuse. On a cultivation area of one hectare, approximately 600–700 tons of vegetables are to be produced annually.

HYPOWAVE.
The treatment of the water is based on the needs for vegetable cultivation – nutrients should be preserved, pollutants removed.
© Fraunhofer IGB
The treatment of the water is based on the needs for vegetable cultivation – nutrients should be preserved, pollutants removed.

Challenges and background

Climate change, urbanization and the pollution of conventional water resources will in the coming decades lead to rising regional competition over the use of the increasingly scarce water resources. At the same time, there is a growing demand for regional vegetables that are produced in a resource-efficient way. For irrigation in agriculture, environmentally friendly water recycling can serve to increase the water supply. So far, there has been no large-scale implementation of the piloted HypoWave concept. This task is now being addressed in the follow-up project HypoWave+.

Research approach

The aim of the transdisciplinary research network is to establish a new form of regional vegetable production. Based on the results of the HypoWave research project, farmers in the Gifhorn region decided to establish a company that produces hydroponically grown vegetables. HypoWave+ accompanies this project scientifically and investigates open questions in the areas of water treatment, vegetable production, intelligent process control, quality management and institutional arrangements. The aim is to further develop the marketability of hydroponically produced vegetables by means of environmentally friendly water recycling with the aim of applying it at other locations as well.

Within the framework of HypoWave+, Fraunhofer IGB is working on the digitalization of the established processes. To this end, the team is coordinating the work on integrated data acquisition and control of the water treatment and the greenhouse production, as well as on setting up and operating the infrastructure required for data acquisition and processing. In addition, the IGB coordinates the detection of (plant)-pathogenic microorganisms and viruses in the treated water and, together with other partners and actors on site, contributes its technical expertise on questions of acceptance and quality of the new process chain as well as on risk management.

The lettuce seedlings do not need soil thanks to the hydroponic process.
© ISOE Wikom
In the research project HypoWave, which was funded by the BMBF from 2017 to 2019, hydroponic plant production using water reuse was piloted for the first time.
Control cabinet.
© Fraunhofer IGB
Control cabinet.
Thanks to biointelligent control systems, the water distribution and nutrient supply of the hydroponic system can be precisely regulated.
© Fraunhofer IGB
Thanks to biointelligent control systems, the water distribution and nutrient supply of the hydroponic system can be precisely regulated.

Project information

Project title

HypoWave+ – Implementation of a hydroponic system as a sustainable innovation for resource-efficient agricultural water reuse

 

Project duration

February 2021 – January 2024

 

Project partners

  • Institute for Sanitary and Environmental Engineering, Technische Universität Braunschweig (Head of research project)
  • ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research, Frankfurt am Main (Coordination)
  • Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB, Stuttgart
  • University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart
  • IseBauern GmbH&Co. KG, Wahrenholz
  • Wasserverband Gifhorn
  • Abwasserverband Braunschweig
  • aquatune GmbH, a Xylem brand, Hahnstätten
  • Ankermann GmbH & Co. KG, Meine
  • Huber SE, Berching
  • INTEGAR – Institute of Horticulture Technologies GmbH, Dresden

Funding

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the project “HypoWave+ – Implementation of a Hydroponic System as a Sustainable Innovation for Resource-Efficient Agricultural Water Reuse” within the funding measure “Water Technologies: Water Reuse” as part of the federal research program on water “Wasser: N”. Wasser: N contributes to the BMBF “Research for Sustainability” (FONA) Strategy.

Federal Ministry of Education and Research.