19. October 2021 | Press releases:

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

From pilot project to large-scale implementation: the process of agricultural food production with recycled water 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 begun preparations for hydroponic vegetable production with recycled irrigation water on a one-hectare site.

Agricultural production worldwide is increasingly dependent on irrigation. But regional water shortages and the resulting conflicts over use 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. With the HypoWave+ research project led by the Technische Universität Braunschweig, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is therefore funding the implementation of an alternative form of agricultural cultivation in combination with water reuse on an industrial scale.

HypoWave process: An alternative for agriculture

The hydroponic process, in which plants in containers without soil are supplied via a nutrient solution using recycled water, had been successfully tested in a previous project in Hattorf, Lower Saxony. “Now the aim is to take the experience gained with the water-efficient process based on recycled water to large-scale production and provide scientific support,” says project manager Thomas Dockhorn from the Institute of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering at the TU Braunschweig. The new HypoWave process not only offers an alternative to irrigation with drinking water and groundwater. At the same time, the cultivation method optimizes nutrient supply, since vital nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are supplied to the plants from 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 possible year-round in greenhouses could therefore become a real option for farmers. “We want to set the necessary course for this,” 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” under 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 amount is 2.8 million euros. The project partners in the research network, led by the Technische Universität Braunschweig, Institute of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering (ISWW), are 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 – Institut für Technologien im Gartenbau GmbH.