A number of sustainability enthusiasts from the NFGL Local Network in Gothenburg visited Stadsjord Urban Farming and their urban aquaponics premises earlier this month.
Niklas Wennberg, the head of the initiative, gave us a tour of the facility and explained to us the process of indoor aquaponic plant cultivation and fish farming in a symbiotic system of interconnected tanks.
“As an engineer, I'm quite impressed with the design of the system”, said Tuan Linh Nguyen, who is pursuing an MSc in Biomedical engineering at Chalmers University of Technology.
“This is the first time I've seen a complete system using waste and bacteria to produce greens and fish in a house without using any medicine.”
Niklas farms omnivore fish, like Tilapia and Clarias, which can be fed with green and fish market waste harvested from cities.
Then, the water rich in ammonia excreted by the fish goes through tanks containing bacteria, that convert ammonia to nitrate. This nitrate-rich water is used to grow plants that provide quality produce without any dependence on soil.
Photo: Tamara Goudian
As we were walking past fish tanks and containers with plants, the elegance of the solution became more clear to us.
“I wasn't aware that hydroponics and aquaculture can be combined to form a sustainable process,” mentions Abubakar Khatry, who is studying for an MSc in Design and Construction Project Management at Chalmers.
Erika Steyn, who is working toward an MSc in Materials Engineering at, Chalmers adds, “I believe that in modern culture we are focused on consumerism. We know how to use products and we are starting to develop a 'recycling' culture.
“However, full sustainability would require us to understand how to come full-circle and create products again from waste without any 'wasted' energy. I think urban farming is a way to implement this.”
Photo by: Tamara Goudian
While exploring the aquaponic facilities, we found it hard to believe that the building would to be torn down in just a few years. Nevertheless, it is in fact a part of the densification process promoted by Stadsjord Urban Farming, which envisions the integration of organising aquaponics using existing infrastructures like unused facilities.
However, it is not only rundown buildings that may host aquaponics. We were all impressed by what Erika Steyn called the “versatility of the solution that Stadsjord offers”.
It can be used in any environment: existing buildings, new housing, and soon rural areas. Furthermore, Niklas mentioned that they had even been contacted by US space agency NASA to discuss fish farming in zero gravity.
Photo by: Tamara Goudian
According to Niklas, if new residential facilities include 50 square-metres of aquaponic units and 100 square-metres of greenhouse areas with vertical farming, it would produce enough fish and greens for 100 residents.
“It is an inspiring project as well as it is beneficial. There will be less need for fishing and contaminating seas and oceans leading to a more sustainable environment. This would also help the economy as imports will drop dramatically,” noted Murtada Ahmed, who studies in the Applied Data Science Master's Programme at University of Gothenburg.
Niklas also recognizes the necessity of developing “sophisticated village-style systems, mobile and modular” to integrate the aquaponic solution to settings where high technology and energy are not easily available.
Abubakar from Chalmers added that a great advantage of the system is the ability to provide people with greens and protein where there is no arable land to farm or oceans to fish from.
“It is also quite an eye opener, that in essence, this is such a simple answer for a lot of global issues regarding waste management on the one hand and hunger and poverty on the other. This could potentially be implemented to assist several struggling communities globally,” added Erika.
We were captivated by Niklas' passion, energy, and determination.
“Definitely, hearing from the experience Niklas shared with us, even one person can make a difference, slowly but surely”, said Abubakar.
Tamara Goudian, who is pursuing an MSc in Biomedical engineering at Chalmers added: “I believe it is not easy to go against flows but when it is for a good cause, it is worth the effort”.
In conclusion, the participants in the visit shared the view that visiting Stadsjord Urban Farming and other initiatives like this are vital for students, as we can both acquire knowledge about sustainability and its numerous implementations in today’s life, and also find our own ways to contribute to sustainable future, and learn to believe that every person can make a difference.
By Alena Seredko of the NFGL Local Network in Gothenburg. She studies Information Technology and Learning at the University of Gothenburg.