Aquaponics and Hydroponics

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Aquaponics and hydroponics are technologies that can produce food with minimal water use, offering sustainable solutions for water-scarce regions.

  • Aquaponics: This system combines fish farming with hydroponics, using the waste from fish to provide nutrients for plants.
  • Hydroponics: This method involves growing plants without soil, using nutrient-rich water instead.

Impact on climate action

Aquaponics and Hydroponics in regenerative agriculture revolutionize food production by conserving water, eliminating chemical runoff, and reducing land use. These closed-loop systems promote carbon sequestration, biodiversity, and sustainable farming in urban environments, offering climate-smart solutions that mitigate environmental impact while ensuring year-round crop production.


  • Hydroponics: Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil, using nutrient-rich water instead. Different hydroponic systems exist, such as deep water culture, nutrient film technique, and ebb and flow systems.
  • Aquaponics: Aquaponics combines fish farming with hydroponics. The waste from fish is converted into nutrients for plants, creating a symbiotic relationship that reduces water consumption and waste generation.

TRL : 7-8

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Vertical Hydroponic and Aquaponic Systems: Vertical farming systems can be used to grow crops in stacked layers, maximizing space utilization and making hydroponics and aquaponics more feasible in urban areas.
  • Data-Driven Optimization: Data analytics and AI are being used to monitor and optimize growing conditions in hydroponic and aquaponic systems, leading to higher yields and improved crop quality.
  • Precision Nutrient Delivery: Advanced nutrient delivery systems can precisely control the amount and type of nutrients delivered to plants, optimizing growth and reducing waste.
  • LED Lighting Systems: LED lighting systems can be used to provide crops with the specific wavelengths of light they need for photosynthesis, optimizing growth and resource use efficiency.
  • Integrated Aquaponic Systems: Startups like Aquaponics AI are developing integrated aquaponic systems that use AI and automation to optimize fish and plant growth, making aquaponics more efficient and user-friendly.

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • BrightFarms:
    • Technology Enhancement: BrightFarms designs, builds, and operates hydroponic greenhouse farms near urban centers to grow fresh produce year-round. Their closed-loop hydroponic systems use nutrient-rich water to cultivate vegetables without soil, optimizing resource use and minimizing environmental impact.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: BrightFarms’ hydroponic farming model enables the production of high-quality, locally grown vegetables close to consumer markets, reducing food miles and ensuring freshness. Their technology integrates advanced greenhouse designs, automated irrigation systems, and climate control technology to maximize crop yields and quality.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: BrightFarms serves retailers, foodservice providers, and consumers seeking locally grown, sustainable produce. Their hydroponic greenhouse farms supply supermarkets, grocery chains, and restaurants with a variety of leafy greens, tomatoes, and herbs, meeting the demand for fresh, responsibly sourced vegetables.
  • Gotham Greens:
    • Technology Enhancement: Gotham Greens operates hydroponic greenhouse facilities in urban areas to produce premium-quality greens and herbs year-round. Their controlled environment agriculture (CEA) systems use hydroponic cultivation techniques and renewable energy sources to minimize environmental impact and maximize efficiency.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Gotham Greens’ urban hydroponic farms are integrated into the fabric of cities, utilizing rooftop spaces and vacant lots to grow fresh, hyper-local produce. Their technology emphasizes sustainability, transparency, and community engagement, promoting urban agriculture and food system resilience.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Gotham Greens serves urban consumers, retailers, and foodservice providers looking for locally sourced, sustainably grown greens and herbs. Their hydroponic greenhouse products are available in grocery stores, specialty markets, and restaurants, catering to the growing demand for fresh, responsibly produced produce.
  • Aquaponics AI:
    • Technology Enhancement: Aquaponics AI develops AI-driven monitoring and control systems for aquaponic farms, which combine aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponic plant cultivation in a symbiotic environment. Their technology optimizes water quality, nutrient levels, and environmental conditions to maximize crop yields and fish health.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Aquaponics AI’s smart aquaponics solutions enable farmers to manage and automate key aspects of their operations, including fish feeding, water filtration, and crop irrigation. Their technology integrates sensors, data analytics, and machine learning algorithms to optimize farm productivity and sustainability.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Aquaponics AI serves aquaponic farmers, research institutions, and educational facilities seeking to improve farm management and productivity. Their AI-driven monitoring and control systems are used in commercial aquaponic farms, backyard setups, and educational programs to promote sustainable food production and environmental stewardship.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • University of Arizona:
    • Research Focus: The University of Arizona conducts research on Aquaponics and Hydroponics, focusing on sustainable farming systems that integrate aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponic (soilless) plant cultivation.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves developing integrated aquaponics systems that utilize waste nutrients from fish farming to fertilize hydroponically grown plants, creating a closed-loop ecosystem with minimal environmental impact.
    • End-use Applications: Their work has applications in urban agriculture, food security, and water conservation. For example, they’re researching aquaponics systems for indoor farming in urban environments, rooftop gardens, and community-based agriculture projects.
  • University of California, Davis:
    • Research Focus: UC Davis is actively involved in research on Aquaponics and Hydroponics, exploring innovative techniques and technologies for sustainable food production, resource use efficiency, and environmental stewardship.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves studying plant physiology, nutrient management, and water recycling in hydroponic and aquaponic systems to optimize crop yields, nutrient uptake, and water use efficiency.
    • End-use Applications: Their work finds applications in greenhouse production, specialty crop cultivation, and agricultural education. For instance, they’re researching hydroponic systems for growing high-value crops such as herbs, leafy greens, and strawberries, as well as aquaponic systems for educational purposes in schools and community centers.
  • Wageningen University & Research:
    • Research Focus: Wageningen University & Research is a global leader in agricultural research, including Aquaponics and Hydroponics, focusing on sustainable intensification of food production systems.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves interdisciplinary collaborations between agronomy, aquaculture, and environmental science disciplines to develop integrated aquaponic and hydroponic systems that optimize resource use efficiency, crop productivity, and environmental performance.
    • End-use Applications: Their work has applications in controlled environment agriculture, urban farming, and food innovation. For example, they’re researching aquaponic systems for producing fish and vegetables in urban greenhouses, hydroponic systems for vertical farming in urban settings, and sustainable food production models for addressing global food security challenges.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Aquaponics and hydroponics are being implemented in commercial-scale projects around the world, providing sustainable food production solutions in water-scarce regions and urban areas.