Modular Aquaponics


Architect: Flanagan Lawrence

Engineer: Useful Simple Trust

Aquaponics: Bristol Fish Project

Aquaponics: LettUs Grow


Shortlisted -  World Architecture Festival Future Projects - Experimental

This project is a research collaboration between Flanagan Lawrence (architects), Useful Simple Trust (engineers), Bristol Fish Project, and Lettus Grow (aquaponics specialists), trying to achieve an exemplar economically sustainable modular aquaponic intervention. The design is tailored for high yield, and low material costs. This manifests as a ‘modular vertical farming system’ wrapping onto south facades of industrial sheds in suburban areas with the aim of ‘greening an industrial landscape’. It addresses key aspects of sustainability and the circular economy.


De-coupled, closed-loop aquaponics is at the heart of the system, involving the recovery of waste heat, recycling of construction materials, and nutrients generated by fish, all enabling the growth of vegetables in a sustainable ecosystem. The system takes the form of a vertical farm consisting of growing tubes suspended above a fish tank, behind polycarbonate panels, and all suspended on a host building. Cold fish species indigenous to the UK (such as trout) will be preferred to other warm water species often used in other aquaponics systems. Salads, greens and ‘micro-greens’ are preferred to more demanding and lower yield fruit bearing vegetables.

Location/ Structure

The ideal site for this system is large, otherwise unused, building façades, such as those of warehouses. By mounting the system on the south façades of such buildings, an opportunity arises to introduce sustainable urban living systems in a manner that improves the environmental credentials of the host structure. The structure itself will re-use structural frames of disused site cabins or shipping containers from decommissioned North Sea Oil platforms, minimising the embodied carbon of the structure.

Farmed fish is generally resource intensive and often relies on wild fish based feed. To reduce the environmental footprint of fish farming and operational costs, we are targeting sites based close to single issue waste streams, such as bakeries or breweries. We also considering an integrated feed generation, with larvae from the black soldier fly turning food wastes into protein-rich fish feed.

Location – Host Relationship

The proposal relies on a symbiotic relationship between a host structure and the modular urban farm.

The growing part of the aquaponic system will be hosted in a modular greenhouse. To maintain production yields in winter and avoid inhibition of the nitrifying bacteria, the greenhouse is being heated during the winter months with recovered waste heat from a host building. CO2 rich warm exhaust air may be passed directly into the greenhouse units, or a heat exchanger will recover waste heat from machinery.

The aspiration is to not use artificial lighting and optimising the dimensions and vertical spacing of the growing beds will maximise solar exposure and therefore yields. Filtered harvested rainwater will top-up the system compensating for any evaporation losses. This is also part of the water attenuation strategy for the host structure. The modules will be naturally cross ventilated, and finely controlled to maintain optimal growing conditions. There will be a low power back-up fan if necessary.