for sustainable development


First harvest using treated wastewater in the HypoWave research project

Can salad plants only be supplied with purified wastewater and thus provide a high-quality harvest ? In the “HypoWave” research project, for the first time seedlings were planted in a hydroponic process and supplied with specially treated irrigation water from a wastewater treatment plant. So far, the harvest shows good first results which is indeed encouraging. Because of the high water consumption in agriculture, the project, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), focuses on water-saving plant production.

First harvest in the HyopWave project

Since summer 2017, lettuce seedlings have been cultivated in a hydroponic process in a greenhouse on the HypoWave pilot plant near Wolfsburg. In their plant containers, the seedlings manage without soil, thus no irrigation water seeps into the soil and less water evaporates. This makes hydroponic crop production a water-saving cultivation method. The HypoWave research project aims to further increase the efficiency of this type of cultivation by using specially treated water from municipal wastewater.

The reuse of water not only protects this resource but nutrients contained in the wastewater are also suitable for a healthy plant growth. “The first results show that good growth of lettuce plants can be achieved even with a low supply of nutrients,” says project manager Thomas Dockhorn from the Institute for Urban Water Management at the Technical University of Braunschweig. “We were able to provide almost all the necessary nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, from the wastewater and reduce unwanted substances.” With a view to efficient use of nutrients, this is a good result.

Water reuse in agriculture preserves the resource

In the coming vegetation period, the system is to be further optimised by applying technical adjustments to the wastewater treatment stages. In addition, the analysis of possible organic trace substances and microbiological investigations into bacterial contamination will be continued. The interdisciplinary research team will also look at how efficiently water resources can be used with this kind of cultivation. “By using wastewater and avoiding water loss through seepage and evaporation, we can reduce the pressure on the resource in two respects,” says Thomas Dockhorn. This is indeed significant in view of the worldwide water consumption in agriculture, which amounts to 70 percent.

The research project is also focusing on further practical application. In times of climate change and increasing water scarcity, new, resource-saving production processes are becoming attractive worldwide. “However, a technical innovation alone cannot survive without the necessary framework conditions and without new business models,” says project coordinator Martina Winker from the ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research in Frankfurt. “That is why for this special variant of plant production we are developing sustainable forms of cooperation between urban water management and agriculture already during the project period.” With this aim in mind and in order to transfer the concept, case studies will be carried out in Germany, Belgium and Portugal.

Detailed information on the research project in German language can  be found at

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The HypoWave research project

The joint project “Use of hydroponic systems for resource-efficient agricultural water reuse (HypoWave)” is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the WavE measure. The project is headed by the Technical University Carolo-Wilhelmina in Braunschweig, Institute for Urban Water Management (ISWW), and the project partners are ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research, Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB, the University of Hohenheim (UHOH), the Abwasserverband Braunschweig (AVB), WEB – Wolfsburger Entwässerungsbetriebe, ACS-Umwelttechnik GMBH & Co. KG, aquadrat engineers (a2i), aquatectura – studios for regenerative landscapes, aquatune – Dr. Gebhardt & Co. GmbH, BIOTEC Biologische Naturverpackungen GmbH und Co KG and Xylem Services GmbH (Xylem). HypoWave’s project duration of three years will end on 31 August 2019.



Nicola Schuldt-Baumgart

Nicola Schuldt-Baumgart
Head of Knowledge Communication & Public Relations
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