Horticultural therapy is practiced in a variety of healthcare, rehabilitative, and residential settings throughout the world. The benefits that come of horticultural therapy range from improved mood, stronger memory, and cognitive skills, to reduced stress and enhanced sociability. Combining hydroponics with aquaculture, Lively Greens is a horticultural therapy table, designed by Yu-Chin Gao to help the elderly population engage with the mental health hurdles that come with dementia.

Lively Greens is essentially a horticultural therapy table that uses aquaponics, a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics, to grow plant life. Lively Greens is comprised of a fish tank and a cluster of five pots for growing plants. As the fish in the tank swim and grow, the water turns rich in nutrients, which feeds the hydroponic plant system, allowing the plant life above to thrive and eventually be harvested. Those who help cultivate Lively Greens only have to do the initial planting and watch the fish take care of the rest. Once the plant life and soil have merged with the water in the fish tank, nutrients from the effluent-rich water, as a result of the presence of marine life, help nourish the plants and sustain a healthy growth cycle.

Yu-Chin Gao created Lively Greens to offer a means for horticultural therapy that took into account some problems the elderly population faces when taking care of plants, such as memory loss and limited socialization. Reaping the benefits of horticultural therapy without having to rely too heavily on a person’s cognitive skills for the system’s upkeep, Lively Greens merges aquaponics with horticulture. Without the added component of having to remember to water the plants, those with mental struggles in relation to memory loss and limited socialization can still enjoy the benefits of horticultural therapy.

Designer: Yu-Chin Gao

Lively Greens consists of five potted plants, a table, and an integrated fish tank.

The plants are positioned so that their bottoms soak in the nutrient-rich water.

Fish can enter and exit the centered negative-pressure water tank freely.

The focal point of Lively Greens is the water tank’s center bubble to keep users engaged and entertained.

Horticultural therapy improves mood, develops memory and cognitive skills, and enhances socalization.

Yu-Chin Gao noticed how cluttered horticultural therapy tables could become. Lively Greens aims to declutter horticultural therapy spaces.

Through multiple ideations, Yu-Chin Gao settled on Lively Greens’ final, card table-like form.

The table’s exposed cutout allows users to watch and understand the practice of aquaponics.

Potted plants soak in the fish tank’s water as the bacteria and fish provide nutrients for healthy growth cycles to take place.

As the fish grow and feed, and as bacteria gets introduced to the aquaculture system, the plants are fed with nutrient-rich water.

The curved structure of Lively Greens allows bulkier transportation devices like wheelchairs to fit right in.

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