An EU-India Joint R&D Project

company-logo water4crops-August 2014


Water4Crops is a large bilateral Indo-European collaborative research project co-funded by the Department of Biotechnology (GoI) and the European Commission.

Water4Crops stands for ‘Integrated Bio-Treated Wastewater Reuse with Enhanced Water Use Efficiency to Support the Green Economy in the EU and India’. The project period is from 2012-2016 and aims to address the increasingly important issue of water and wastewater reuse and management.

The project brings together an Indo-European consortium of 36 organisations (14 Indian and 22 European) from research institutions, universities, large industries and SMEs.

EBTC is working to enable the marketing of Water4Crops technologies (from research to market), as well as disseminating the findings from the project with respect to increasing efficiency in agriculture.

The Aim

In an effort to reduce the amount of freshwater used in crop irrigation, by 2016 the project plans to have developed the following solutions:

  • Innovative biotechnological wastewater treatments for improved water reuse in agriculture.
  • Alternative combinations of bio-treatment, recycling of high value elements and bio-products, leading to better commercialisation of biotechnology and agricultural products in Europe and India as a basis for green growth.
  • Best practices for improving water use efficiency in agriculture through agronomics, plant breeding and locally adapted new irrigation technologies, and accurate crop water requirement measurement techniques.
  • Enhanced involvement among stakeholders (technology producers, technology users, retailers and regulators) for exploiting the outputs of the projects as means towards food and water security, and enabling mutual steps towards a green economy in Europe and India.

The Objectives

  • Develop bio-technological wastewater treatment to enhance wastewater reuse in agriculture.
  • Co-creation of combinations of bio-treatment, water recycling and high-value products, and combinations for bio-products.
  • Improve water use efficiency (for instance through improved agronomics, plant breeding and locally adapted new irrigation technologies, and accurate water requirement measurement techniques).
  • Enhanced stakeholder participation in co-creation: Mirror cases approach and INNOVA platforms.

The Principle

The project applies a modular multi-step approach that brings together wastewater treatment and reuse with its valorisation. The novelty of the approach mainly lies in the maximum recovery of chemicals and nutrients:

  1. Organic products originally occurring in wastewater are converted into valuable products through dedicated biotechnological processes (e.g. organic acids and bioplastics).
  2. After separation, a final treatment is applied to obtain high quality irrigation water containing fertilising matters such as nutrients commonly occurring in wastewater.

The Approach

  • Consortium approach and PPP’s.
  • Mirror case approach by twinning successful examples from Europe and India.
  • Innovative modular biotechnological processes.
  • Facilitate co-learning and evolutionary idea generation.
  • Co-creation of new products leading to new business opportunities.

The INNOVA Platform

Social development and technological development are interdependent and therefore collaborating with a range of stakeholders is crucial for the successful market uptake of W4Cs technologies. The INNOVA stakeholder platform was established to bridge this gap, and lies at the heart of W4Cs. The platform enables researchers to connect and communicate with expert contacts in a range of relevant sectors, including technology use, marketing and policy.

Over the course of the project, three INNOVA meetings will take place, with the aim of encouraging researchers and stakeholders to share experiences, discuss and work towards solutions to challenges, as well as identify any further opportunities to boost green growth as part of the project.

Treating Wastewater: Double the Benefit

A central aim for the partners is to develop and implement sustainable technologies, as well as best practices, that will support wastewater exploitation in agriculture by adopting an innovative approach that could potentially produce twice the benefits. Rather than simply restoring wastewater in order to meet quality standards and enable its reuse, the researchers propose to further utilise the resource at their disposal. The high value nutrients reclaimed from wastewater have the potential to dramatically boost crop yields when put back into the land.

Developing Wastewater Treatment Systems

W4Cs is mainly focused on two types of small, decentralized wastewater treatment system appropriate for the small settlements found in rural areas in India and Europe.

Technological systems

Innovations that are being developed include:

  • A sequencing batch bio-filter granular reactor.
  • An environmentally-sound tool that can reduce up to 80 per cent of disposable sludge produced at a conventional plant.
  • Nano-biocatalysts that can be used to assist with the degradation of micro pollutants are also of particular interest.
  • The researchers are keen to devise methods that combine biological treatment with surface filtration through cheap and natural membrane, which they believe could offer a greater deal of control in terms of desired water quality.
Natural systems

Efforts are centred on constructed wetlands (CWs) and eco-friendly systems with low maintenance costs. At present, very little is known about CWs and so the group is keen to investigate how best such a natural system can be taken advantage of. Therefore, research is being carried out to learn more about aspects including pathogens, heavy metals and nitrogen removal potential, clogging and preferential-flow phenomena, hydraulic behaviour, and design.


EU: IRSA-CNR, Unit of Bari, Italy• NERC-CEH, UK • FHNW Switzerland • UNIBOItaly • VITO – Flemish Institute for Technological ResearchBelgium • TUC, Greece • UFZ, Germany • UNICT, Italy • GEAU-Cemagref, France • INRA, France • ALTERRA, The Netherlands • CER, Italy • GIZ, Germany • INOFEA GmbH, Switzerland • SIMA-tec GmbH, Germany • Bionactis, Switzerland • PHYTOREM SA, Miramas, France • VITA 34 AG, Leipzig, Germany • Envinhealth, Greece • HORTA, Piacenza, Italy • STEP, Germany • UNIRM, Italy

India: ICRISAT • Euro India Research Centre• Ion Exchange • Jain Irrigation Systems Limited • Larsen & Toubro • MS SwaminathanResearch Foundation • CSIR-NEERI • SABMiller • The Energy and Resources Institute • University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad • University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad • Ugar Sugar • JalaSRI, Watershed Surveillance and Research Institute from MooljiJaitha College


Dr.Suhas P Wani, Scientific Coordinator - India
ICRISAT, Hyderabad, India
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Dr. Antonio Lopez, Scientific Coordinator - EU
IRSA CNR, Bari, Italy
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Note: The Water4Crops pages contain excerpts of an interview with Prof. Antonio Lopez, Coordinator of Water4Crops EU consortium, on “Water saving and reuse for a greener economy”, to International Innovation magazine, December 2013, pp 112-114(ISSN 2051-8544).




Additional information