The problem

Through agricultural run-offs and wastewater, aquatic ecosystems are increasingly threatened. High nutrient levels in the water lead to increased algal growth, which reduces oxygen levels in the water. This process is called eutrophication. Freshwater bodies are increasingly becoming eutrophied, which causes a decline in habitats for fish, birds and amphibians. Algae blooms produce bad odor and detrimental effects on freshwater ecosystems.

Ways4Water aims to develop sustainable solutions to protect and regenerate freshwater ecosystems. The first product will be floating gardens, buoyant structures provided with aquatic plants. While the plants grow, they take up excess nutrients from the water and create habitat for animals.

Our solution

Our "Floating Gardens" are buoyant structures, planted with aquatic plants. Porous growth media allows plant roots to penetrate inside the water. The plants take up nutrients, especially phosphates and nitrates, while they grow. Microbes populating the root area and the synergistic interaction between them and the plant rhizomes further intensify this effect. The plant nutrient uptake reduces nutrient levels in the water, which prevents algae blooms and balances the ecosystem.

In the water, floating gardens provide shelter and food for fish populations and above the water, it creates habitat, nesting areas and food for insects, small mammals and birds. Floating gardens beautify urban waterways while raising awareness for the health of aquatic ecosystems.

Winner of the Demo Day

Ways4Water is the winner of the first Demo Pitch Day hosted by StartGlocal. Watch the interview to learn more about the project, its aim and why it is so important to raise awareness for the health of aquatic ecosystems.

Our prototype

We are in the process of pretesting our first prototype. We plan on launching the first prototype in the summer. After research on material and plant species and the development of the biomimetic propulsion mechanism an advanced prototype will follow.

The floating garden will be equipped with water sensors and biomimetic propulsion navigation (imitating fish movement). This enables water quality monitoring and facilitates maintenance and positioning of the garden. The collected data from the sensors will be used to contribute to research and development for the improvement of freshwater bodies.

Our target group

Ways4Water addresses the growing market of water restoration. The condition of water bodies is increasingly deteriorating worldwide. When weakly flowing and stagnant waters "overturn" this condition is very difficult to reverse and can cause large financial losses.

Urban waters in particular are threatened by eutrophication. Their condition can have an impact on a city's economy and tourism. The renaturation of water bodies has become increasingly important since the adoption of the European Water Framework Directive, which aims to achieve a good ecological and chemical status of water bodies. According to the Federal Environment Agency, there are more than 12,000 lakes in Germany.

Our target groups are any entity which has interest in the improvement of water quality as well as in the appearance of freshwater bodies. These include private people who own a pond, city councils, houseboat owners and rentals, as well as agricultural companies, who want to improve the water quality of their treated wastewater. Floating gardens can be used on any freshwater body, like lakes, ponds and channels.

The Ways4Water team

Blanca Paschen from Hamburg

Blanca studied Biological Resources and Sustainable Agriculture in Kleve. After completing her Bachelor’s degree, she worked as a research assistant in the Soil and Plant Nutrition working group at Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences. During her master studies she founded a student group for the renaturation of eutrophic local waters and gained valuable knowledge in limnology.

Blanca had the idea of floating gardens together with Barbara Dröppelmann when she was working on a student project on ways to treat the wastewater of houseboats. She later founded a student group “Spoy project” in the ENSPIRE complex at the HSRW for the improvement of the Spoy’s water quality.

Erika and Blanca in the city of Cleves

Erika Schmidt from the United States of America

Erika is currently studying Agribusiness at Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences in Kleve. During her studies she has put a special focus on entrepreneurship, marketing and environmental sustainability. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from her home country the United States.

Driven by her interest in urban and sustainable farming methods such as aquaponics and permaculture, Erika took a second degree in Agribusiness.

Supporters and mentors

Together with Francisco Javier Silva Deco, Blanca participated in the Start-Glocal Academy of the Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences and won the competition. Javier is currently studying sustainable agriculture at our university. During his studies he participated in a project to assess and find solutions for the improvement of the Spoy Channel in Kleve. Javier is currently supporting the project with his bachelor's thesis.

Barbara Dröppelmann, is a landscape architect based in Geldern. Barbara designs, among other things, biological wastewater treatment plants and natural swimming pools. She has years of technical and planning expertise in this field, as well as a client base that has shown interest in the floating gardens. She came up with the idea of floating gardens herself several years ago, and as a business angel will support and participate in the startup Ways4Water with her expertise.

In addition, Prof. Dr. William Megill, professor of Bionics with a focus on sensors and robotics and marine biologist, and Prof. Dr. Florian Wichern, professor of Soil Science and Plant Nutrition, as well as Dipl-Ing. Rolf Rheinschmidt from Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences are supporting the project too.

Our university offers the perfect groundwork to develop sustainable solutions for environmental problems. Thanks to its applied and international approach, students from different backgrounds can share and join efforts to develop projects with sustainable outcomes. Our team in Ways4Water is currently in the process of expanding, including new members with marketing and engineering backgrounds.
Blanca Paschen