Study finds microgreens are a perfect match for aquaponics

Study finds microgreens are a perfect match for aquaponics

21 January 2019

Recent proGIreg research highlights the potential of microgreens for boosting profitability and sustainability of aquaponic farming.

Aquaponics combines aquaculture (growing fish) with hydroculture (growing vegetables in nutrient-rich water), and is one of the key proGIreg nature-based solutions since it requires no soil, an advantage for post-industrial areas, where soil is often contaminated. The project intends to enable the post-industrial areas of Dortmund, Zagreb, Turin and Zenica to be able not only to produce their own locally-grown food, but also to help them to become profitable so that the aquaponics systems continue to run after the project has finished.

The preliminary research, carried out by horticulture researcher Jovita Liutkutė in collaboration with German proGIreg project partners the University of Applied Sciences of South Westfalia and Aquaponik-Manufaktur GmbH, suggests that growing microgreens with aquaponics could be the key to marketability. Microgreens are young vegetable greens, which are usually harvested at a height of about 10-15 cm after sprouting as shoots. Popular microgreens include watercress, basil, chives and radishes. They are highly nutritious and, in some circles, considered the new super food. But why do they specifically complement aquaponics?

Well, successful aquaponics is about a balance of nutrient supply and demand: it relies on a stable supply of fish waste water to provide the nutrients needed to feed the plants. However, the needs of the plants vary from season to season. In winter, for example, there can be an oversupply of nutrients from the fish waste, which, if not used, would have to be discarded, causing environmental problems. Since microgreens have short germination periods and require little space and investment, they can be grown as an interim measure, whenever there is an oversupply of nutrients, to ensure effective use of the nutrients available. The research results showed that microgreens develop vigorously yet very evenly when irrigated with aquaculture water, yielding a high quality crop. Additionally, they can be grown in enclosed spaces (as opposed to greenhouses) since they require little light (during the germination phase they need none at all), reducing the need for artificial lighting.  This is good news for proGIreg since the intention is to use former industrial buildings for the aquaponics systems.

The research is not only investigating the production conditions of microgreens in aquaponics systems (temperature, humidity, lighting, seed quantity etc), but it also considers microbial security and marketability as part of a complete business plan.

“With the flexible, space and light saving production methods, the market price at €20-25 per kg and the increasing popularity, microgreens may have the chance to move aquaponics into the profitability zone” says Rolf Morgenstern, University of Applied Sciences of South Westfalia.


For more information please contact:

  • Jovita Liutkutė  (
  • Rolf Morgenstern  (


This research was made possible thanks to support from BJB GmbH and the Frauenhofer Institute.


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Image: Research into microgreens by "Rolf Morgenstern"

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 innovation action programme under grant agreement no. 776528. The sole responsibility for the content of this website lies with the proGIreg project and in no way reflects the views of the European Union.