INCiTiS-FOOD - Press Release - INCiTiS-FOOD Publications Revels Key Insights into African Food Production for Urban Farmers

Press Release: INCiTiS-FOOD Publications Revels Key Insights into African Food Production for Urban Farmers

The African region stands as a prominent hotspot for rapid urbanization and food and nutritional insecurity casting doubt on achieving the sustainable development goal (SDG) 2 – Zero Hunger. As African cities grow, so does the pressure on the resources needed for food production such as land and water with the by-products of waste always being a pressing concern. Innovation in urban farming has been advocated as a way to not only produce adequate food but also help solve issues of informal settlements and high levels of urbanization in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. INCiTiS-FOOD responded to these challenges by creating circular agri-food technologies that increase regional food and nutritional security and protect the environment through community engagement.

Studies conducted under INCiTiS-FOOD yield valuable information into water quality management of recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) as well as growth conditions of indigenous microgreens used in hydroponics production. With research in these fields, INCiTiS-FOOD is pioneering knowledge creations for urban farmers and technology adopters.

Growth Conditions of indigenous African Ethiopian kale Help Hydroponics Development

Microgreens are rapidly gaining popularity worldwide due to their unique flavor, tenderness, and high nutritional value making them ideal hydroponics plants for African regions. Particularly, the native African leafy vegetable Ethiopian kale Brassica carinata microgreens are gaining popularity due to their high nutrient content and possible health advantages, such as their ability to prevent non-communicable diseases like cancer.

Maru et al. (2024) study provided insights into the influence of different lighting treatments provided by LEDs and substrates on the growth, yield and bioactive compounds of B. carinata microgreens. The study looked at four different lighting treatments monochromatic blue (B), red (R), cool white (W) and a combination of three color diodes (B + R + W) trying to provide insight into the best possible light composition for optimal growth. Moreover, as microgreens are most often grown in hydroponics systems the study examined cocopeat, sand and cocopeat–sand mix substrates in a controlled environment in a locally fabricated walk-in growth chambers.

Figure 1 Effect of LED light on phytochemicals ((A) carotenoids, (B) flavonoids, (C) chlorophyll and (D) nitrates) under different substrates (cocopeat + sand, sand and cocopeat). Bars represent standard errors of means. Different letters indicate signi. Taken from Maru et all. (2024)

With the overall goal of enabling improved cultivation strategies, the study found that a combination of different lights (using all three color diodes – blue red and white) offered the highest yields and better yield-quality of the Ethiopian kale microgreens compared to using only one diode color light treatment. In terms of substrate used for growth, Maru et al. (2024) suggest that using a combination of cocopeat with sand is a cost-effective and production efficient way of growing microgreens. This is especially important for low-income farmers who often have scarce resources to start hydroponics cultivation.

Digital Water Quality Tools for Aquaponics Strengthen Water Management

Aquaponic production has been highlighted as an urban food production innovation that can provide food and nutritional security with relatively little land and capital. As the system relies on recirculating water maintaining optimal water conditions for growth and avoiding effluent discharges is an important part of water management in aquaponics.

Aghaji et al. (2023) conducted an exploratory study to provide water quality management advice to farmers looking to adopt aquaponics solutions, namely by looking into digital tools. The study evaluated water parameter data obtained from affordable Internet of Things (IoT) and handheld probes. This is of high importance as in recent years there has been an influx of novel, cost-effective, and user-friendly water testing instruments and kits in the market that have not been studied in detail.

Aiming to improve fish farm management decision-making the study found a great difference between the accuracy of the devices tested. Aghaji et al. (2023) highlight that even though low-cost probes and sensors may be affordable and financially attractive at first they may not consistently deliver the required accuracy, precision, and reliability demanded by particular use cases.

General Recommendations for Urban Farms Adopting Innovative Food Solutions

Whether you are a farmer looking to utilize hydroponics or aquaponics for your urban food production INCiTiS-FOOD has some recommendations that you should consider before you start your food production journey:

  1. Utilize a combination of various light spectra (such as B + R + W) to potentially achieve higher yields and better-quality microgreens.
  2. Explore the use of a combination of cocopeat with sand as a viable alternative to using cocopeat alone, considering lower costs and widespread availability of sand.
  3.  Recognize that while affordable probes may seem financially attractive, they may not consistently deliver the necessary accuracy, precision, and reliability for particular use cases.
  4. If you select lower cost probes and sensors seek additional information on the accuracy, durability, calibration procedures, and reliability for aquaculture water monitoring.
  5.  Before setting up your aquaponics unit try to conduct prolonged in-field assessments of affordable probes and sensors to ascertain their stability and durability

About INCiTiS-FOOD Project

Initiated in January 2023, INCiTiS-FOOD, funded by the EU’s research and innovation programme, aims at revolutionizing African city region food systems by enhance food and nutrition security (FNS) across four vital dimensions – availability, access, utilization, and stability through solutions centered around soilless crop farming, recirculating aquaculture systems, and insect farming. This innovative project employs circular agri-food technologies like hydroponics, aquaponics, and insect farming, aiming for sustainable food production in 8 Living Labs located in 6 countries across 3 African regions: East: Kenya; West: Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone; Central: Cameroon, Gabon. Led by Prof. Gertrud Buchenrieder and Dr. Emmanuel Olatunbosun Benjamin , from UniBw M, the project is a leap towards community-centered food solutions, improved living standards, and robust, year-round food sources.

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    Stay tuned as we continue to push the boundaries of sustainable agriculture and foster innovation for a greener, more resilient future.


The research leading to these publications has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation program under grant agreement No. 101083790 (project INCiTiS-FOOD).The information and views set out in this study are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the Commission. The Commission does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this study. Neither the Commission nor any person acting on the Commission’s behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

INCiTiS-FOOD at a glance

Project name: INtegrated and Circular Technologies for Sustainable city region FOOD systems in Africa
Granting authority: European Research Executive Agency
Total costs: € 6 196 897,00
Duration: 4 years, 1/1/2023 – 31/12/2026
Consortium: A total of 23 partners from 15 countries (Germany, Lithuania, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Serbia, Greece, Israel, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Kenya)

Project Coordinators:

Prof. Gertrud Buchenrieder
Dr. Emmanuel Olatunbosun Benjamin
Universität der Bundeswehr München

Project Communication:

Mladen Radisic
Foodscale Hub Serbia

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