On the way to a circular society, efficient, and sustainable food production is an essential building block for success. The growing world population and intense weather extremes, as well as interrupting global supply chains, are major challenges for traditional food production. One way to solve problems is “decentralized vertical farming”, which focuses on food production in controlled environments. The advantages of this concept are short delivery times, reduced weight of the plant beds, and the vertical farming concept, which increases the harvest per m2. Despite the advantages mentioned above, there is potential for further developing this concept in the direction of the circular economy. Decentralized vertical farming in combination with closed energy, resource, and distribution cycles is a new, disruptive concept in food production.

With regard to energy consumption, a technology concept for a stand-alone system is developed. To this end, system components are designed to be more energy-efficient, IoT devices are used to measure and control the system, and operation is made more efficient by using the collected system data. The resource cycles are further closed by new products. In addition, a knowledge management tool for the exchange of information and experiences is selected and filled with respective content. This makes operations more efficient, the yield higher and other interested parties motivated to transfer the concept or parts of it to other areas. Another critical aspect of sharing information and enabling traceability of products in the food supply chain is trusted information. Therefore, one output of the project is the development of a digital framework for tracking food, which measures sustainability and positively influences customers purchasing decisions. A socio-technical result of the project is the definition of requirements for the labeling of sustainable and regional food.

The project is carried out by three scientific partners, the St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences, Research Studios Austria, and the Austrian Institute of Technology, a technology service provider (BEIA) and a producer of aquaponic systems and aquaponic farmer (AndersFarm). The goal is to improve the circular economy of an aquaponic system, to make concepts or parts of them accessible and transferrable to other food manufacturers, and to show the advantages and limitations of a network of several aquaponic manufacturers within a production network.