© Hochschule Karlsruhe/Marion Broda

Sustainable Fish Farming and Innovative Wastewater Recovery at Lake Victoria

Steinbeis is partner in the EU project VicInAqua, which supports knowledge transfer between Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Europe

Clean water is the basis for so much: food, the environment or agriculture. In view of the scarcity of water, wastewater treatment plays an important role. In the EU project VicInAqua, eleven partners from Denmark, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Malta, Tanzania, and Uganda are developing an efficient, flexible, and robust system for wastewater treatment and reuse in fish farming and irrigation around Lake Victoria in East Africa. The Institute of Applied Research at Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences is coordinating the project which focuses on the construction of a pilot plant in Kisumu in Kenya. As project partner, Steinbeis 2i GmbH supports the exploitation of the project results, the administrative and financial management and the communication of the project progress.

The partners from research, industry, and public sector have adopted an integrated approach: they develop a sustainable system that combines wastewater treatment and a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS), making it possible to reuse water and improve the quality of fish farming in Lake Victoria Basin. The system should help reducing stress on the sensitive ecosystems of Lake Victoria and enhancing food and health security. The RAS technology makes it possible to raise high quality fingerlings through the optimal and constantly monitored water quality and supply. The fingerlings are then handed over to local fish pond operators for further rearing.

The project is also developing a new kind of self-cleaning water filter consisting of a membrane bioreactor (MBR) as main processing unit within the overall combined water treatment system. The biggest challenge is membrane fouling which requires frequent cleaning with expensive chemicals. As a result, the VicInAqua partners are developing novel self-cleaning membrane materials that not only perform better in the long term, but are also more environmentally friendly. An innovative, easy-to-operate monitoring system enables to control the system on site or via a smartphone. The filtered effluent water coming out of the MBR flows into the RAS and the surplus can be used for irrigation. The remaining sludge from the filter system is co-digested with local organic waste to produce biogas. This biogas, together with advanced photovoltaic panels, provides for decentral electricity supply.

“VicInAqua is developing an all-round solution that can be adapted for successful operation in Africa but also in further regions with water or food scarcity and that can finally contribute to develop new business opportunities for local people. The main challenge besides the technical innovations is to foster mutual cultural and technical exchange between the European and African societies, also to offer people in Africa new perspectives in their home countries”, explains Prof. Dr. Jan Hoinkis, project coordinator and professor at Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences. Susan Clare Adhiambo is the Chief Fisheries Officer in charge of Kisumu East Sub-county at the Department of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (DALF) of Kisumu County, Kenya, and project partner in VicInAqua. She says, “We like the innovative approach adopted by VicInAqua, which gives very close attention to the problems in Kenya and the other countries around Lake Victoria – Uganda and Tanzania. This isn’t just about general technological and environmental advancement, it’s also about proposing an African solution for efficient water reuse and waste water pollution control.” DALF brings in its vast expertise in the planning, implementation and regulation policy of aquaculture and fisheries in Kenya. DALF will continue to operate the pilot plant after completion of the project, so it plays an important role in coordinating the construction work, which started in springs 2018 and should be finished in November.

To convince the local population, businesses and policy makers that the system and the innovative technology it encompasses actually work and are worth the investment, the project consortium also provides trainings on the different technologies and organises study visits and round-table meetings to increase local knowhow and awareness. In addition, an academic exchange program was organised for ten students from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to get to know the VicInAqua technologies and follow the work of researchers at the European scientific partner organisations in Germany, Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences, and in Italy, Institute of Membrane Technology (ITMCNR) and University of Calabria (UNICAL). In May, half of the the students were invited to learn more about water treatment, membrane science, chemistry and organic synthesis at ITM-CNR and UNICAL. In June, the other students went to Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences to to deepen their knowledge in the fields of of water treatment, membrane science and renewable energy. Both groups of students were offered a varied program of lectures, practical exercises and tours by the project partners. At the end, the students provided a feedback report on their experience during the exchange program. The VicInAqua project team members already feel positive about the initiative. If the technology is used by fisheries organisations and local authorities in Lake Victoria Basin, it should create new and long-lasting employment opportunities and enhance the quality of local fish production through aquaculture. VicInAqua has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 689427.


Dr. Jonathan Loeffler, Dr. Sandrine Doretto
Steinbeis 2i GmbH (Stuttgart)