International environment protection project under the direction of Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences

Initial operation of a pilot plant for (waste) water treatment for sustainable fish farming in Kisumu (Kenya) with the EU project "VicInAqua”

3 December, 2018

As part of the EU project "Integrated aquaculture based on sustainable water recirculating system for the Victoria Lake Basin (VicInAqua)", a pilot plant for (waste) water treatment for sustainable fish farming was officially opened on 23 November 2018 in Kisumu, Kenya.

Lake Victoria is the largest inland water in Africa and the second largest lake in the world. It has a great importance for the neighbouring states of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Its freshwater reservoir forms the essential basis for fishing, business activity and tourism. However, the entire region is currently threatened by overfishing, eutrophication due to waste water from the lake industry, the increasing number of settlements and a growing impoverishment of the local population. Due to the oversupply of nutrients, the lake is largely overgrown by water hyacinths, which displace native aquatic plants due to their rapid growth.

Under Project Coordinator Prof. Dr. Jan Hoinkis from Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences (HsKA, Germany), a total of eleven partners from Europe and Eastern Africa have joined forces to develop a sustainable water purification system for fish farming in the Lake Victoria region. Besides HsKA, German partner institutions are Steinbeis 2i from Karlsruhe and BPE International; European partners are the Institute on Membrane Technology ITM-CNR (Italy), the University of Calabria (Italy), the companies AquaBioTech (Malta) and OxyGuard International (Denmark); and from Africa the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Kenya), the Department of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of Kisumu County (Kenya), the National Agricultural Research Organisation (Uganda) and the Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Research Organisation (Tanzania).

The aim of the project is to develop and test a combined, sustainable water treatment system for industrial and domestic waste water and water recirculating in aquaculture.

The inaugurated pilot plant marks the start of the testing phase to demonstrate its suitability for everyday use. The pilot plant is based on a multi-purpose filtration system, a membrane bioreactor (MBR), which can be used both as a recirculation system for fish tanks (RAS) and for waste water treatment. A novel self-cleaning membrane material was developed for use in such membrane bioreactors. Here, fine-pored membranes are used to filter the treated waste water. These new treatment units are not only very compact in size, but they also achieve a comparatively high water quality. The problem of the membrane bioreactors available so far was the formation of fouling layers on the membrane surfaces, which reduce the water flow and thus the cleaning performance. They therefore had to be cleaned with chemicals at short intervals. The newly developed membrane material showed a significantly improved fouling behaviour in laboratory operation and is now being validated in the test phase on site parallel to the previous material.

In addition to the development of an innovative filtration system, VicInAqua also developed a sensor-controlled energy supply system for semi-autonomous operation based on photovoltaics and biogas. In this way, the necessary energy can be produced sustainably and a continuous energy supply for the plant can be ensured, even in the event of power failures in the grid.

"One of the main challenges of the project lies in the development of robust and cost-effective processes that are optimally adapted to the socio-economic conditions of the Lake Victoria region," emphasises Prof. Dr. Jan Hoinkis. "Therefore, training courses for local experts and an exchange of students between the European and African partners have been and will be carried out. This year, four students from Uganda and Kenya were able to complete a two-weeks training course at the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences.
A video about the project can be watched at youtube.

The project VicInAqua has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 689427.