Development of intelligent management tools for aquaponics

What is aquaponics?

Aquaponics is a specific technique for agricultural production that combines aquaculture (farming fish and other water organisms) with hydroponics (growing vegetables in a nutrients solution). Both techniques offer the best performance in their respective domains. By uniting them, we can get rid of all waste materials by using them as supply for another system: water with fish excrements is used to feed the plants. In turn, the plants filter the water which can then be added to the water with the fish again.

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From aquaponics to the plate

Visit of the Atelier de Bossimé and its aquaponic system

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Launching conference

The Smart Aquaponics project invites you for its launching event on 20 September 2018 in Lille

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Press release

Europe mobilizes 2 million euros to develop aquaponics

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Smart Aquaponics

Development of intelligent management tools for aquaponics systems

More information >>

What is aquaponics?

Aquaponics is a specific technique for agricultural production that combines aquaculture (farming fish and other water organisms) with hydroponics (growing vegetables in a nutrients solution). Both techniques offer the best performance in their respective domains. By uniting them, we can get rid of all waste materials by using them as supply for another system: water with fish excrements is used to feed the plants. In turn, the plants filter the water which can then be added to the water with the fish again.

Unlike any currently available systems, the aquaponics system manages to limit the water usage, the amount of waste materials in the water and the need for synthetic vegetable fertilisers. Aquaponics also allows to build horticulture farms in areas where this normally would not be possible: polluted soil, urban areas or infertile areas. The presence of fish and vegetables in the same system also ensures no pesticides or antibiotics are needed. As a result, aquaponics manages to produce fresh vegetables and fish while drastically limiting its impact on the environment.

Smart Aquaponics: Objectives



Expertise in aquaponics is taking shape in the French-Belgian region and is facing several challenges that are typically associated with innovation: lack of training, expertise and tools that are accessible to everyone. To contribute to solving these challenges, the Smart Aquaponics project was introduced by several secondary schools, colleges and universities.

The Smart Aquaponics project is an Interreg project for transnational cooperation between France, Wallonia and Flanders to promote aquaponics among local administrations and the corporate sector. Within the project, three digital tools will be developed which will become available through an application (smartphone and PC): an online training program, a design support tool and a monitoring tool. An aquaponics guide will also be published at the end of the project.

The online training tool is composed of an educational game with several theoretical modules. The game will allow the user to adjust virtual aquaponics systems with varying complexity and experiment with an extensive range of possibilities. The game combines all practical aspects with the required biological concepts for designing and managing an aquaponics system. The target groups are technical secondary schools, colleges and universities as well as self-taught people and the local community. In a later phase, we may also establish a network of practical trainings. Access to the tool is free of charge.

The support tool for designing aquaponics systems allows users to compose virtual aquaponics systems and perform simulations. These simulations will estimate the expected efficiency and stability of the systems and, in this way, allow to finetune the designs. The simulation covers the entire design process of aquaponics systems as well as the online purchase of different components. The tool must be adjustable to as many aquaponics systems as possible. Access to the tool is free of charge.

The aquaponics system monitoring tool allows the user to follow the status of the system and to anticipate potential problems. The monitoring is based on connected sensors (pH, temperature, NH4, water level, …) and will be compatible with self-made systems and smaller companies. The monitoring system is so special because it is based on a dynamic model that can predict potential accidents by monitoring the evolution of different parameters. Access to the tool is free of charge for small users. Professional users require a paid subscription.

Smart Aquaponics: Approach

The Smart Aquaponics project is set up around a multi-disciplinary approach for creating the different tools.

The different tools for Smart Aquaponics (online training, design support and monitoring) are based on a computer model that predicts the evolution of the aquaponics systems (plant growth, fish growth, biofilter activity, nutrient concentration, …) based on parameters such as amount of food delivered to the fish, temperature, nutrient concentration, pH, etc. The specific nature of this model lies in its ability to model aquaponics systems of different sizes and designs. This model was designed as part of a thesis at the Faculty of Agro-Bio Tech – Uliège in Gembloux.

The model will be connected to a data acquisition system that allows to collect data from the aquaponics systems. This data will then be linked to the computer model. The data acquisition system will be composed of (i) sensors installed on the aquaponics systems, (ii) a sensor cloud connection and (iii) data management in the cloud. In addition to the computer model, the data acquisition system will also be adjusted to the different aquaponics setups: a system managed by a city administration does not have the same requirements as a professional system in terms of precision and number of sensors. Howest will take care of the sensor selection, Vigo Universal manages the wireless cloud connection of the sensors and Yncréa ensures the data management in the cloud.

Initially, the data acquisition system and the model will be tested in the aquaponics pilot projects of the project partners. These first tests will allow us to (i) test the functioning of the data acquisition system and (ii) validate and improve the computer model. In a later phase, the data collected by the monitoring system will be used to improve the computer model, which means Smart Aquaponics will become more accurate as the number of users grows!

The Smart Aquaponics system is equipped with a modern, user-friendly user interface. The tools for monitoring and decision support as well as the educational game will be accessible through a mobile app and a PC. This aspect will be performed by Vigo Universal, a company that specializes in developing digital applications and educational (or other) video games.

The educational game is composed of practical scenarios and theoretical information. The theoretical content and scenarios will be developed by teachers who are passionate about education and aquaponics, at the level of technical secondary (PTI), college (Odissée and Howest) and university education (Yncréa and Uliège). Vigo Universal will use its expertise to create the educational games for the purpose of Smart Aquaponics. With this educational game, Smart Aquaponics wants to help future professionals and passionate people in the field of aquaponics to step up and grow animal and vegetable proteins in a sustainable manner.

Smart Aquaponics wants to integrate in the entire transnational network France-Wallonia-Flanders to promote the use of these tools, but also to connect with the many players in aquaponics. Groupe One, Pôle Aquimer, Vlakwa and Pôle légume Nord will organise the propagation of the tools and the anchorage of the Smart Aquaponics community.

The partners

The project partners are: Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech - ULiège, Howest, Yncréa, Vigo Universal, Groupe One, PTI, PCG, Pôle Aquimer, Vlakwa, Pôle légume nord, Atelier Bossimé, Aqua4C and UniLaSalle. Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech - ULiège acts as the project coordinator.



The project is financed by Interreg and co-financed by the Service public de Wallonia - Direction générale opérationnelle de l'Économie, de l'Emploi, de la Formation & de la Recherche (DGO6) (Directorate-General for Economy, Employment, Education & Research).



Total project budget: 2 000 000 €


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