Academic awarded for aquaponic garden

Academic awarded for aquaponic garden

Kristyn Comino

22 July 2013: Filled with waterfalls, mosaics, flowers and vegetables, an aquaponic garden co-designed by a University of Canberra occupational therapist has won an international award.

Located in the aged care facility RFBI Basin View Masonic Village in Shoalhaven, NSW, the garden was awarded a high commendation by the International Academy for Design and Health at an event in Brisbane on 13 July. The garden is designed to promote wellbeing among residents in the village, including people with dementia.

Part of the garden’s winning team was associate professor in occupational therapy, Alison Wicks, who said the award was received in the ‘salutogenic’ category, which means “focusing on keeping people well’. 


The garden at the RFBI Basin View Masonic Village co-designed by UC’s Alison Wicks. Photo supplied

“The aquaponic garden was established to provide the residents at the RFBI Basin View Masonic Village the opportunity to enjoy some favourite outdoor activities – such as gardening and fishing. It was also set up to create some social cohesion within the village and to promote some engagement between the village and the local community,” Dr Wicks said.

The environmentally friendly garden uses a sustainable food production system that combines conventional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water). 

Award ceremony

Part of the team at the award ceremony in Brisbane. L-R: Helen Hasan from the University of Wollongong, Paul Van der Werf from Earthan Group and Alison Wicks from the University of Canberra. Photo supplied

Working on the garden with colleagues at the University of Wollongong, the Earthan Group and Royal Freemasons’ Benevolent Institution, Dr Wicks said the team saw the award as a “a great surprise”.

“The other award applicants came from all around the world and most of them were large architectural firms and engineering companies whose projects cost millions, even billions in some cases. In comparison, our project cost only $150,000 and has relied on assistance from the local scouts and school children,” Dr Wicks said.

“The award belongs to everyone who has supported and participated in the garden – the staff, the residents and their families,” she added.

Dr Wicks said that the team will now analyse the impact of the garden on the residents’ health and wellbeing and investigate the nutritional benefits of the garden produce, which includes organic vegetables and sliver perch.

“The documentation of all the processes and resources involved will be used to inform other aged care facilities interested in setting up sustainable and eco-friendly projects that promote residents’ participation in health promoting outdoor activities.”

Technology by the University’s ARStudio was also used within a poster designed for the garden that was on display at the award ceremony. The poster includes interactive content like videos and pictures that can be viewed when a compatible phone or portable device is held up to the poster.


Catherine, a 92-year-old resident of the village, with giant spinach from the garden. Photo supplied

“The poster received a lot of attention as it was quite special, it was the only one with interactive content at the event. By holding a phone or device up to it a video appears on screen that allows people to virtually walk through the garden,” Dr Wicks said.

View the garden poster.