Profitability in Aquaponics

To grow vegetables in water from a fish pond full of nutrients might sound like a brilliant idea, but is it really profitable? A study by reaearchers from the Wageningen Univesity showed that more than half of the 1000 commercial aquaponic farms worldwide make a loss. This was mainly the result of low market value for the produced vegetables and fish that were farmed. Before starting an aquaponics farm it is important to look at the market prospects. A niche in the market needs to be found that could make aquaponics more profitable. Tilapia and catfish usually won’t make it because they sell for far to cheap. Perch, burbot and pike could be interesting alternatives for the European market as their market value is much higher.

Schematic overview of a aquaponic system. Illustration retrieved from Baliga Lab, Institute for Systems Biology

Anammox

The Anammox process was developed by the Technical University of Delft and is an innovative treatment process for the removal of ammonium from wastewater. It is a shortcut in the nitrogen cycle in which ammonium is directly converted into nitrogen gas. The Anammox process occurs within one of the many granules present in the reactor. Half of the ammonium is oxidized into nitrite by nitration bacteria. Subsequently, Anammox bacteria convert the nitrite and the rest of the ammonium into nitrogen gas. The whole process takes place in one reactor which makes the Annamox process very compact. In conventional methods, at least two reactors are needed for the nitrification and denitrification steps. Another advantage of the Annamox process is that far less oxygen is required to drive the conversion of the ammonium, which substantially reduces the overall treatment cost. Anammox treatment is particularly suited for industrial wastewater high in ammonium content 🙂

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Illustration retrieved from: https://www.zeolite-anammox.com/faq on the 27th of August 2017

Aircon condensation for irrigation

Ever noticed the wet puddle outside your aircon? Each time an air conditioner is turned on, it pulls moisture from the air inside the home. The water needs to go somewhere and is usually discharged via a condensation pipe to the nearest drain. 

Why not capture this free water and use it for irrigation to plants?! You simply have to divert the condensation pipe to the area you would like to keep moist. Small droplets from the condensation pipe will keep the soil moist all day long. It is very similar to drip irrigation! Moreover, the water from the aircon is cold which cools the plants. Amazing and simple guys! 😊

Engineering with Membranes 2017

Between the 26th and 28th of April the annual Engineering with Membranes was held in Singapore organised by the Singapore Membrane Technology Centre (SMTC). The main goal of the conference was to share knowledge on recent advances in membrane science and technology. Leading membrane specialists from around the world gave a total of 70 lectures covering desalination, reclamation & resource recovery, molecular separation, membrane fouling, gas separation, pre-treatment, industrial & bioprocess application and membrane monitoring. The Dutch representative at this conference was Dr. Emile Cornelissen, senior researcher at KWR, who presented his research on controlling Reverse Osmosis (RO) fouling after minimal pre-treatment. His main conclusion was that the 1-step RO scenario was approximately 20% lower in costs than the Ultrafiltration (UF) – RO scenario. Air/water cleaning is effective to control clogging, while lowering flux values results in less membrane fouling.

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NEWater Singapore

One of Singapore’s four national “water taps” is to reclaim water from wastewater. After years of research, the Public Utilities Board (PUB), Singapore’s national water agency, started to supply high quality reclaimed water, referred to as NEWater. The majority of NEWater is supplied to industries for non-potable purposes. The rest is discharged into reservoirs for indirect potable use. Currently NEWater meets 30% of Singapore’s current water demand, and there are plans to increase this to 50% by 2060. At this moment there are four NEWater treatment plant in service (Bedok, Kranji, Ulu Pandan and Changi). NEWater is produced from treated sewage, termed “used water”, that is further purified in three different steps:

  1. Microfiltration (MF) is the first step in the NEWater production. The treated used water is passed through membranes to filter out and retained on the membrane surface suspended solids, colloidal particles, disease-causing bacteria, some viruses and protozoan cysts.
  2. The second stage of the NEWater production process is known as Reverse Osmosis (RO). In RO, a semi- permeable membrane is used. The semi-permeable membrane has very small pores which only allow very small molecules like water molecules to pass through. Consequently, undesirable contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, heavy metals, nitrate, chloride, sulphate, disinfection by-products, aromatic hydrocarbons, pesticides etc, cannot pass through the membrane.
  3. The third stage of the NEWater production process acts as a further safety back-up to the RO. In this stage, ultraviolet or UV disinfection is used to ensure that all organisms are inactivated and the purity of the product water guaranteed (PUB).

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(Reverse osmosis membranes)

Colloquium Master Thesis

On Thursday the 16th of February 2017, I held my colloquium at Wageningen University of my master thesis covering the sanitation issue in Ciwalengke, Majalaya, Indonesia.

This master thesis research examined the important issues that play a role for successful implementation of domestic sanitation treatment facilities and the potential for nutrient harvesting in Ciwalengke. Based on field observation, water sample analysis, questionnaires and interviews a new sanitation design was proposed specifically for the case of Ciwalengke. It incorporated both a technical and institutional design. The technical design concluded that storage of urine and the treatment of the remaining wastewater through septic tanks were the most feasible technologies. The institutional design concluded that a solid platform would be necessary that incorporates community involvement in the maintenance and operation of the sanitation system. Governmental guidance coupled with a financial structure should be in place to facilitate this process.

It was great to see many students of my year and others attending this 🙂 Thank you all for coming!

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IPAL Bojongsoang, Bandung

In October 2016 I was invited to visit the only centralised domestic wastewater treatment plant in Bandung located in Bojongsoang. It was a very interesting day where I saw the many processes that take place within such a treatment plant. In this case, a series of stabilisation ponds were used to treat the incoming wastewater. Check out my short documentary of the processes below! 

WaterLink Leeuwarden

On the 26th of January 2017 I travelled up north to Leeuwarden for the 5th addition of the annual WaterLink event organised by Water Alliance. Water Alliance is a unique partnership of public and private companies, government agencies and knowledge institutes involved in water technology in the Netherlands. It brings together a unique and complete chain of innovation for water technology, from first idea to potential commercial success: from knowledge to business.

This year 16 different countries attended the event, the most number of international guests so far. Swimmer and three time Olympic gold medalist, Pieter van den Hoogenband gave a speech on his approach to becoming the best. This was followed by eight different parallel sessions covering various domains of water technology. I chose to attend “recourse recovery from wastewater” which was very interesting. The potential for recovering phosphorus and cellulose from wastewater were mostly discussed in an interactive session. After this there were plenty of opportunities for networking under the enjoyment of a tasteful dinner 🙂

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