Integrated sustainability assessment of social and technological innovations towards urban food systems

Outreach events: Participation in the first meeting of the “Aquaponics network of North Rhine-Westphalia”

Yesterday 18th May, SustUrbanFoods joined the first meeting of the “Aquaponics network of North Rhine-Westphalia” to talk about the sustainability of aquaponics and the case studies of aquaponics systems within the project.

The event was organized by Aufbruch am Arrenberg, the association die Urbanisten and the SWUAS university within the framework of the ERASMUS+ Urban Green Train project, as a multiplier event.

The goal of the event was to exchange expertise and experiences between the administration, aquaponics companies, associations and NGOs, service companies and academics of the sector. The three axis of the meeting were the following:

  • How can aquaponics contribute to sustainable food production?
  • Which social and labor market-relevant opportunities open up?
  • Which bodies are involved when an urban aquaponics project is to be implemented?


  • 9:00 am Get-together
  • 9:30 am Welcome
  • 9:50 am What is Aquaponik – Rolf Morgenstern
  • 10:00 am The Urban Green Train Project – Bernd Pölling
  • 10:20 am Sustainability of Aquaponics – Dr. Esther Sanyé-Mengual
  • 11:00 am Break and exchange
  • 11:30 am Climate Expo – Michael Walther
  • 11:40 am The Aquaponik Verband – Mandy Schreck
  • 12:00 hrs Aquaponik Manufaktur – Ingo Bläser
  • 12:10 am Integrated Pest Management – Dr. Peter Dapprich
  • 12:30 am Aquaponics and Social Work – Yvonne Fischer
  • 12:50 pm lunch break and exchange
  • 1:45 pm Panel discussion: Mandy Schreck, Jörg Heynkes, Rolf Morning Star, Peter
    Dapprich, Mrs. Bonitz (?)
  • 2:30 pm The project Arrenbergfarm – Jörg Heynkes
  • 14:40 h Plantastik – Niels Rehkop
  • 14:50 am Aquaponics at the FH Soest – Rolf Morgenstern
  • 15:10 Food Safety – Dr. Eberhard Büker
  • 15:30 h Plant Nutrition – Wolfgang Grüne
  • 15:45 Coffee and closing day

Case study: DIE URBANISTEN aquaponics system – Dortmund (Germany)

Location: Dortmund, Germany
Typology: Modular protected aquaponics
Urban area: Urban
Innovation type: Technological innovation
Main functions: Water recirculation – Polyculture – Research



The aquaponics system of die Urbanisten is placed in the Union Gewerbehof in Dortmund. It was implemented in 2013 for demonstrative purposes. The installation consists of a 22m2 unheated greenhouse made of aluminum, plastic and glass, where the aquaculture and soil-less production are integrated. On the on hand, the aquaculture production is performed in a 1m3 IBC container and water is filtered by biological and mechanical processes. On the other hand, the soil-less production system is done on expanded clay in polyethylene boxes.


Crops: Tomatoes, Mint, Lettuce, Arugula, Lettuce, Lemon balm, Basil (African blue), True Water Cress

Fish: Grass Carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella), Tench (Tinca tinca)

Techniques: Aquaponics production: Aquaculture tank with filters (biological & mechanical) + Soil-less vegetables production with expanded clay

Irrigation: Tap water – Recirculation – Automatic irrigation

Use of renewable resources: –

Sustainable practices: Pesticides-free – Integrated pest management – Local production – Minimization of water consumption – Sustainable production of protein sources

Other products: –


Case study: SWUAS aquaponics system – Soest (Germany)

Location: Soest, Germany
Typology: Protected aquaponics
Urban area: Urban
Innovation type: Technological innovation
Main functions: Water recirculation – Polyculture – Research



The aquaponics system at SWUAS (Fachbereich Agrarwirtschaft der Fachhochschule Südwestfalen) was implemented for research purposes. The installation started in May 2015. Regarding the aquaculture system, European catfish are held in three 1.1 cubic meter tanks, equipped with filters, feeders and warm water. The fish production is connected to the floating hydroponic system hosted in the greenhouse next door, growing in deep water culture beds (DWC). Aquaponics seeks for resource efficiency by recirculating the water between the two systems: the water from fish farming (aquaculture) flows into the plant basins (hydroponics) where the fish residues are used as fertilizers.


Crops: Lettuce (Salanova cook RZ), Lemon balm and Basil (African blue)

Fish: European catfish (Silurus glanis)

Techniques: Aquaponics production: Aquaculture tanks with UV disinfection and filters (biological & mechanical) + Floating hydroponic production with wooden beds

Irrigation: Well water (Elevated amount of calcium carbonate)– Recirculation – Automatic irrigation (Tap water is available)

Use of renewable resources: –

Sustainable practices: Pesticides-free – Integrated pest management – Local production – Minimization of water consumption – Sustainable production of protein sources

Other products: –




Starting of the secondment period in Dortmund (Germany)

The secondment planned in the project just started!

Until the end of May, I will be working in Dortmund with researchers, architects and urban planners of the Fachhochschule South Westfalia (SWUAS), the Company hei-tro and the association Die Urbanisten.

The objective of the secondment is to know more about the aquaponics technology and to value two case studies on aquaponics in Dortmund.

During the secondment, knowledge exchange will be produced as well as different outreach activities will take place:

  • Seminar at SWUAS for students and researchers
  • Participation in the Westfalia aquaponics network meeting

Regarding the networking within the project, during the secondment I will participate in two events:



“The SustUrbanFoods project: challenges in accounting for the sustainability of complex urban food systems” – Contribution to the 6th World Sustainability Forum

The preliminary results of the participatory research process of Susturbanfoods were presented in the 6th World Sustainability Fórum with the aim of showing the relevance of integrating stakeholders in the definitions behind methodological schemes and in the selection of parameters and metrics.

The workshops performed in susturbanfoods invited stakeholders and students of urban food systems (UFS) to put together the elements of the sustainability of UFS, differentiating between the environmental, economic and social dimensions. As a result from the workshops, we obtained a global and comprehensive picture of what are the concepts and elements behind the global sustainability of UFS.

The relation of this concepts between the three dimensions composed the following network, which includes mono-, bi- and tri-dimensional elements.


 The detailed results and further discussions based on the workshop results will be soon published as a scientific paper.

Participation in the public event “Coltiviamo spazi urbani”

Last 18th December, Susturbanfoods joined the public event “Coltiviamo spazi urbani” organzied by the Làbas collective to present their new garden project ORTEO.

The event was a public meeting between citizens, researchers, activists, organized bodies that are interested in the topic of urban agriculture. The goal of the event was to explore the environmental, social and economic aspects of these new practices, share the experience of concrete initiatives and imagining possible scenarios for the city of Bologna.


The roundtable was composed by:

  • Daniela Gasperi – PhD students in the Departmend of Agricultural Science  – UniBo
  • Esther Sanye-Mengual – MSCA fellow, Research Centre for Urban Agriculture and Biodiversity (Rescue-AB) – UniBo
  • Maurizio Bergamaschi – Sociologist of the territory – UniBo
  • Joan Crous – social cooperative Eta Beta Onlus (Bologna)
  • Luana Iori – Gandusio Orti (Bologna)
  • Stefano Scarascia – Arvaia – Agricultural cooperative of citizens of Bologna


The event was followed by an organic aperitif with km.0 products in collaboration with Làbiopizza from Labàs and the social brewery Schiumarell.



Cibi, relazioni e altre trasformazioni nella città contemporanea

Le aree urbane rimandano a paesaggi cementificati dove la natura ha a disposizione solo aiuole e parchi per crescere e colorare di verde alcuni interstizi della città. Ma esistono altri spazi dove piante e individui possono interagire creativamente nella costruzione dell’ambiente urbano? A Bologna, già da alcuni anni, molti fra singoli e gruppi si sono attivati per riprendere un contatto diretto con la natura e donare ai luoghi nuovi significati. Partendo da prospettive differenti, in forma individuale o collettiva, hanno trasformato tetti, balconi, piazze e aree dismesse in orti e giardini comunitari, dove è possibile coltivare, insieme alle piante, anche nuove relazioni sociali. In una città sempre più anonima e frammentata dove i processi di riproduzione del capitalismo globale intervengono nelle forme del consumo, della speculazione immobiliare e dell’esclusione sociale, gli orti urbani si configurano come laboratori di sperimentazione locale, dove costruire nuove strategie di resistenza all’egemonia del modello neoliberale e rivendicare una gestione collettiva degli spazi urbani e rurali. Autoproduzione di cibo, scambio di conoscenze, consapevolezza ecologica, incontro e convivialità, solidarietà tra culture e generazioni, costituiscono azioni ed obiettivi che esprimono una nuova domanda di città e rimettono al centro l’individuo con le sue scelte e le sue aspirazioni.
Domenica 18 dicembre 2016, dalle ore 18:30, vi aspettiamo a Làbas per un incontro pubblico tra cittadini, ricercatori, attivisti, realtà organizzate che sono interessati al tema dell’agricoltura urbana. Andremo a scoprire le dimensioni ambientali, sociali ed economiche di queste nuove pratiche, partendo dalla condivisione di esperienze concrete e immaginando possibili scenari per la città.

Ne parliamo con:

Daniela Gasperi – Dottoranda Dipartimento Scienze Agrarie – UniBo
Esther Sanyé-Mengual – Centro Studi e Ricerche in Agricoltura Urbana e Biodiversità (Rescue-AB) – UniBo
Maurizio Bergamaschi – Sociologo del territorio – UniBo
Joan Crous – Eta Beta Cooperativa sociale Onlus (Bologna)
Luana Iori – Orti di via Gandusio (Bologna)
Stefano Scarascia – Arvaia – Cooperativa agricola di cittadini bolognesi

A seguire aperitivo biologico e a km zero con Làbiopizza a Làbas e Schiumarell – Birrificio sociale.


Knowledge exchange with students at UNIBO

The Marie Sklodowska-Curie individual fellowship promotes the knowledge exchange between the experience researcher (who did the mobility) and the host institution. As part of this exchange, I perform seminars and specific lesson on life cycle assessment (LCA) for the students at DIPSA (UNIBO).

To date, I had the opportunity to perform the following lessons: