Institute for Technology Assessment and  Systems Analysis (ITAS)

Nutrient Communities for Sustainable Agriculture “Rural Urban Nutrient Partnership (RUN)”

  • Project team:

    Poganietz, Witold-Roger (Project leader), Dinar Suryandari

  • Funding:

    Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

  • Start date:


  • End date:


  • Project partners:

    Institute for Sanitary Engineering, Water Quality and Solid Waste Management (ISWA), University of Stuttgart; Institute of Landscape Planning and Ecology (ILPÖ), University of Stuttgart; Department Resource Efficient Wastewater Technologies, TU Kaiserslautern; Institute of Farm Management, University of Hohenheim; Institute of Crop Science, University of Hohenheim; Research Center for Global Food Security and Ecosystems (GFE), University of Hohenheim; Max-Weber-Institute of Sociology, University of Heidelberg; Centre for Social Investment (CSI), University of Heidelberg; Institute of Agricultural Technology, Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute, Braunschweig; A3 Water Solutions GmbH; iat - Ingenieurberatung GmbH; Björnsen Beratende Ingenieure GmbH

  • Research group:

    Socio-Technical Energy Futures

Project description

Nutrient Communities for Sustainable Agriculture “Rural Urban Nutrient Partnership (RUN)” is an inter- and transdisciplinary research project intended to establish and practically test future visions of a partnership between farmers and urban residents. The aim of the project is to close the nutrient and resource cycles between regional urban and rural areas and to contribute to increasing the resilience and resource efficiency of agricultural systems.

To achieve the project goal, transferable concepts and technology solutions are developed, analyzed for their sustainability, and tested in practice. The development of the concepts and technology solutions is embedded in a comprehensive communication process between the actors, who alternately take the role of consumers and producers. On the technological side, there is a great need for research into the (further) development of technologies that convert nutrient-rich municipal secondary resources (partial waste and wastewater flows) into safe and effective design fertilizers for the landscape.

The project consists of three sub-modules focusing on technological development, system development, and the user perspective. The sub-modules are supplemented by a core module “Synthesis & impulses for sustainable nutrient communities”. This module aims to bring together the results of sub-modules I to III, evaluate them from a sustainability perspective, communicate them, and make them available to consumers, farmers, and other stakeholders. ITAS coordinates the core module.

Within the framework of the project, ITAS is involved in the following activities:

Scenario definition, mapping, and analysis: The system developed in the project should take into account possible future changes in the socio-technical conditions. The scenarios to be developed will specifically illuminate the role of rural-urban nutrient communities in future agriculture. For this purpose, an analytical framework will be set up that uses the overall model and the ecological and economic assessment woven into it.

Sustainability assessment: This activity is coordinated by ITAS. The sustainability assessment for the RUN project is based on the already established “Integrative Concept of Sustainable Development” (ICoS). ICoS formulates three general dimensions of overarching sustainability goals: securing human existence, maintaining society’s productive potential, and preserving society’s options for development and action. Due to its integrative character, the dimensions of ecology, economy, and social issues are treated equally, i.e., the concept of resources is extended beyond the ecological dimension to include economic, social, and cultural resources. The concept thus allows for much more complex considerations than the commonly used three-pillar concept of sustainability. Moreover, the substantial sustainability rules create a comprehensive normative basis, including test criteria, and at the same time enable the contextualization (both qualitative and quantitative) of indicators for the specific project case. The sustainability assessment will evaluate the developed technology solutions and concepts and, in particular, examine the implementation of new wastewater and waste management systems as well as the recovery and recycling of resources for the production of fertilizers.

User perspective: The project considers both the perspective of the residents as users of the new technologies and that of the farmers as users of the design fertilizers. Various aspects can be derived from the user perspective, such as: What problems can arise in connection with the disposal and treatment of waste and wastewater, what expectations and hopes are associated with this, and what consequences does this have for the design of a sustainable nutrient cycle? In order to make the project sustainable in the future, the residents and the farmers should be involved not only as users but also as actors. Their behavior is the main aspect for the projection of the shape of the future system.


Journal Articles
Friedrich, J.; Poganietz, W. R.; Lehn, H.
Life-cycle assessment of system alternatives for the Water-Energy-Waste Nexus in the urban building stock.
2020. Resources, conservation and recycling, 158 (104808), Art. Nr.: 104808. doi:10.1016/j.resconrec.2020.104808
Vergara-Araya, M.; Lehn, H.; Poganietz, W.-R.
Integrated water, waste and energy management systems – A case study from Curauma, Chile.
2020. Resources, conservation and recycling, 156, Article no: 104725. doi:10.1016/j.resconrec.2020.104725


Dr. Witold-Roger Poganietz
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS)
P.O. Box 3640
76021 Karlsruhe

Tel.: +49 721 608-28180