UF001 LokDepot, Basel: The first commercial rooftop aquaponic farm in Switzerland

; ; ; ; (). UF001 LokDepot, Basel: The first commercial rooftop aquaponic farm in Switzerland: Oral presentation. In: 2014 International Conference on Vertical Farming and Urban Agriculture (VFUA 2014). 9th-10th September 2014. Nottingham: UK.

Introduction: Aquaponics is an innovative and sustainable food production system integrating aquaculture with hydroponic vegetal crops (Graber & Junge-Berberovic, 2009). This emerging technology has the potential to play a key role in provision of food while tackling global challenges such as water scarcity, food safety, food security, urbanization, and reductions in energy use and food miles. While it is a widely discussed technology today (about 1.3m hits on Google in May 2014), only very few research papers were published describing efficiency and performance of real systems.

Results: In 2012, the Swiss company UrbanFarmers, a spin-off of the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) built a 260 m2 greenhouse farm on an industrial rooftop in Basel (UF 2014). Together with the research team at ZHAW, the aquaponic farm layout was planned, installed, operated and monitored. In its first year of operations, 700 kg Tilapia and 3’500 kg of different vegetables were produced and sold to restaurants, and to Migros, Switzerland’s largest retailer.

This pilot farm achieved three major goals: to showcase the proof of technology for aquaponic rooftop farms, to demonstrate proof of market acceptance by Swiss consumers for this new way of farming food, and to deliver key performance figures that allow planning and scale-up for future commercially interesting farm units.

Conclusion: Further innovations are required that simplify operations and enable cost-effective aquaponic farming, while making the products safe for human consumption: new planting techniques, new varieties of produce, biological pest control, irrigation techniques, and integration with existing building infrastructures.