Modelling aquaculture-hydroponic systems

Current food production systems are unsustainable. About 70% of the fresh water used worldwide is destined to agriculture, largely for animal feed, and almost three quarters of the global fish stocks are overfished.

Aquaponics is a technique that can help decreasing the ecological impact of food production by combining aquaculture (farming of aquatic organisms) with hydroponics (farming of plants without soil) in a single water cycle. Today, aquaponics is mainly used in small scale, remote systems.

Our research is part of the EU project INAPRO, which aims at developing aquaponics towards a commercial state based on simultaneous modelling and demonstration approaches. Our group works in modelling and simulation of water, nutrient and energy flows in aquaponic systems. In parallel, our project partners build and operate pilot systems.

The main target of the model is to minimize water, nutrient and energy consumption in the aquaponic cycle.

Highlight of the past year

The general code for the full model has been completed in Python, an open source programming language. The model has a modularity approach , i.e. every component of the system is programmed as a single, interchangeable unit, which will allow us to simulate different equipment, scenarios, species to grow and locations in the world.

Daniel has worked in the overall Python structure while Hans has simulated separate modules.

Daniel and Karel had the pleasure to visit the completed construction of an INAPRO demonstration system in Beijing, as part of the collaboration between theoretical and practical approaches.

Type of student projects envisioned

Our student projects are focused on modelling. We also have collaboration with research institutes in Europe and China involved in INAPRO, which could provide experimental data to validate models.