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Soilless food production in circulation systems

In the unit Food products, research is mainly conducted in the two areas of «Aquaponics» and «Farmbot» to create sustainable solutions for food production. The focus is hereby on the following principles:

Current research topics


Controlled environment, artificial light and plants: A view into the research laboratory where future cultivation methods are invented and tested.

We are investigating different soil-less cultivation systems with regard to vertical farming, soil-less cultivation, as well as sustainable and resource-saving production. The plants receive their nutrients from suitable industrial wastewater that accumulates in the settlement area, whereby nutrient cycles are closed locally. Different cultivation methods, environmental conditions and light applications are tested under controlled conditions in this plant climate chamber.


Aquaponics is a polyculture which combines aquaculture and hydroponics cultivation, i.e. fish farming and soilless food production, in a recirculation (semi-closed-loop) system with the aim of recycling nutrients from the wastewater of fish farming. The nutrients contained in fish feed and fish excrement are thus used in a sustainable way to produce food.


FarmBot is an open-source robotic planting system designed to automatically cultivate vegetables. It performs all the work involved in cultivation: sowing to specification, weeding, measuring soil moisture and targeted irrigation.

Within the field of urban farming, the eco-technology research group is interested in the automated cultivation of food, for example, on roof and facade surfaces that are difficult to access, in vertical, hydroponic and aquaponic farming.

With specific further development, FarmBot could also be used for the cultivation of mixed crops.

Within the scope of term papers and the Bachelor’s thesis, you have the opportunity to further develop the FarmBot. For example, Linus Bleisch developed a carrot harvesting tool as part of his bachelor's thesis.

Farmbot - Bachelor thesis of a student of environmental engineering at the ZHAW in Wädenswil

Studentische Arbeiten

Team foodstuffs