Ecornet

Adaptation to climate change Large-scale implementation of vegetable production utilizing water reuse

From pilot project to large-scale implementation: The process of agricultural food production with water reuse successfully developed in the HypoWave research project is entering large-scale application for the first time. In the course of the follow-up project HypoWave+, the research network has started preparations for hydroponic vegetable production with recycled irrigation water on a one-hectare area.

Agricultural production worldwide is increasingly dependent on irrigation. But regional water shortages and the resulting conflicts regarding usage are on the rise. High-yield harvests cannot be taken for granted in Germany either due to prolonged heat and dry soils. New, water-saving cultivation methods are being sought. The HypoWave+ research project led by the Technical University of Braunschweig, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is therefore implementing now an alternative form of agricultural cultivation in combination with water reuse on an industrial scale.

The HypoWave process: An alternative for agriculture

The hydroponic process, in which plants that are in containers without soil are nourished via a nutrient solution using recycled water, had been successfully tested in a previous project in Hattorf, Lower Saxony. “ Now the experience gained with the water-efficient process based on recycled water is to be transferred to large-scale production, and this process is to be accompanied scientifically.,” says project manager Thomas Dockhorn of the Technical University of Braunschweig. The new HypoWave process not only offers an alternative to irrigation with drinking water and groundwater, the cultivation method also optimizes nutrient supply, since vital nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are supplied to the plants through the treated water.

Despite water shortages: regional food production in times of climate change

Together with farmers from Lower Saxony, the scientists are planning to produce up to 700 tons of tomatoes and peppers under glass on one hectare of cultivation area. The vegetables will be sold in regional grocery stores throughout the year, except for a short winter break. “In the course of the scientific monitoring of HypoWave+, we are focusing on questions of quality management and the marketability of the process,” says project coordinator Martina Winker from ISOE - Institute for Social-Ecological Research in Frankfurt. She says it is important not only to develop a viable solution for this location, but also to be able to derive recommendations from it for other locations and farmers. Climate change is visibly advancing. Regional vegetable cultivation that is water-saving and feasible all year-round in greenhouses could therefore become a real option for farmers. “For this, we want to lay the necessary foundations,” says Winker.  

The HypoWave+ research project

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the joint project “HypoWave+ – Implementation of a hydroponic system as a sustainable innovation for resource-efficient agricultural water reuse” as part of the funding measure “Water technologies: Water Reuse” under the federal program “Water: N”. Water: N is part of the BMBF strategy Research for Sustainability (FONA). The funding amounts to 2.8 million EUR. The project is led by the Technische Universität BraunschweigBraunschweig Institute of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering (ISWW), with the research partners being ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research, Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB, University of Hohenheim (UHOH), Abwasserverband Braunschweig (AVB), Wasserverband Gifhorn (WVGF), IseBauern GmbH & Co. KG, aquatune GmbH (a Xylem brand), Ankermann GmbH & Co. KG, Huber SE and INTEGAR – Institute for Technologies in Horticulture GmbH.

For more information on the research project please go to: www.hypowave.de

Image material: www.flickr.com/photos/102295333@N04/albums/721576885183561


Contact for scientific information:

Dr. Martina Winker
ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research
Water Infrastructure and Risk Analyses
Hamburger Allee 45
60486 Frankfurt am Main
Germany
+ 49 69 7076919-53
winker(at)isoe.de