SAIN - Urban agriculture - Innovation

Joint innovative development of urban agriculture - Sustainable integration and networking of small-scale food production

Aquaponics system

Through lively exchange with city farmers, numerous cultivation projects were developed in the city. Two different cultivation systems were tested in the aquaponics plant at Fraunhofer UMSICHT: DFT (DFT - Deep Flow Technique: Roots are in the water) and NFT (Nutrient Film Technique: Roots are in tubes through which water flows)

Project goals

The SAIN (Urban Agriculture - Innovation) project is a Citizen Science project in the field of urban agriculture. Together with citizens, knowledge about urban food production is bundled, technologies and production facilities are made more accessible and new ideas are developed. In this context, lay researchers will work together with scientists to develop research questions in a thematic context, which they will pursue during the project period. As important supporting element the science community will bring the research design - and the corresponding methodologies - closer to the citizens.

Project benefits

One of the greatest challenges for a constantly growing world population is the supply of food. Experts see alternatives to conventional agriculture in urban farming. There are already numerous projects by urban farmers that aim to ensure a resource-conserving, regional food supply. Fraunhofer UMSICHT, the Wissenschaftsladen Bonn and interested citizens work together in the SAIN project to bundle and further develop the knowledge and experience of all of them. The aim is to develop concepts for the small-scale production of food and, ideally, a recyclable overall system from production to distribution.

To this end, the actors will look at different cultivation methods and harvest consequences during the project period. The aim is to communicate research methods and demonstrate the advantages of urban agriculture. Of particular importance for the project are the citizens, as their everyday practical knowledge and questions are included from the very beginning.


Project results

Through a lively exchange with interested city farmers and the opportunity to contribute their own ideas, numerous cultivation projects for fruits, vegetables and mushrooms under different conditions were created at the Oberhausen and Bonn sites.

Some examples:

  • Aquaponics system (combination of aquaculture and cultivating plants) at Fraunhofer UMSICHT: Comparison of two cultivation systems - DFT (DFT - Deep Flow Technique (roots are in water) and NFT - Nutrient Film Technique (roots are in tubes through which water flows))
  • Muchroom garden in “Haus Ripshorst”: Construction and maintenance of a mushroom garden in public space
  • Mushroom cultivation in the cellar: comparison of the economic efficiency of growing gourmet mushrooms on different municipal organic waste of the city such as sawdust, coffee grounds, paper waste.
  • Self-sufficient raised beds: construction of several small-scale closed and sensor-controlled raised beds and comparison of efficiency with open raised beds or soil-based cultivation
  • Tree slice: Planting of tree  to increase biodiversity in inner cities
  • Load wheel: Determination of the use of load wheels for the distribution of regional produced food
  • Berry garden: Construction and maintenance of two public berry gardens on private land. The possibility of free self-service is given, observation of the acceptance of this system.

Through local events, interested citizens are made aware of the topic of urban farming and are introduced to the concepts of sustainable and local food cultivation through workshops.

Project partners

  • Wissenschaftsladen Bonn e.V.

Funding information

Federal Ministry of Education and Research


Duration: January 2018 to December 2019