Integrated Nature & Technology Research Group

Postgraduate Research

Our post-graduate research community benefit from our expertise in landscape architecture and built environment with links to professional societies. Postgraduate students work within a vibrant research environment supervised by staff members and have the opportunity to present their work at international conferences. Recent postgraduate researchers include:

Lorenzo Fruscella: Organic Certification of Soil-Based Aquaponic Systems

Lorenzo’s research project focuses on the development of soil-based aquaponic systems, and on the potential organic certification of aquaponic produce, where he is challenging the criteria that currently regulate such certification both in greenhouse-based horticulture and aquaculture. To this end, he is conducting experiments where soil is introduced into aquaponics systems, testing the effects of using water from aquaponic systems to fertilise soil-grown crops, and testing ways to substantially increase fish welfare through various methods of enhancement, including habitat and feed enhancements.

Under the new Commission Regulation (EU) 2018/848 which entered into law in January 2021, aquaponic produce cannot be certified as organic in the European Union. Aquaponics involves the farming of fish and other aquatic animals and plants – mostly vegetables and herbs – together in either coupled (closed-loop) or decoupled systems. In coupled systems, the waste from the fish is converted by bacteria that occur naturally in the water into nutrients for the plants, which absorb them, thus cleaning the water for the fish and thereby forming a recirculating cycle. Although in theory and in practice aquaponics fulfils nearly all organic farming principles, rules such as the need for crops to be cultivated in soil and the ban on using recirculating aquaculture systems currently prevent aquaponic produce from achieving organic certification.  These regulations make it difficult for aquaponics producers to market their products effectively and thus maximise profits, which would create a stable and sustainable future for this innovative food producing technology.

Ahmed Khalil: Digital Documentation of Heritage Buildings

Ahmed’s research project investigates the challenges facing the digital documentation of heritage buildings, exploring the width and depth of the processes of data capture, interpretation, and management. It also considers longevity issues of digital documentation and potential solutions for data preservation, and aims to develop a framework for digital documentation strategies that can facilitate the preservation of the built heritage on different scales.

While heritage buildings represent an invaluable resource for society, they usually face many challenges in terms of their integrity and performance. Therefore, they are in constant need of conservation, renovation, retrofitting and maintenance in order to keep them in good status and modern functional standards. All these are real challenges facing the buildings’ stakeholders and the whole of society. The most challenging aspect is the initial stage of survey and documentation of the building, which needs to deal sensitively and accurately with such a historically significant fabric. Challenges facing the digital documentation extend to include the integration of the diverse types and forms of data that are vital for the conservation, renovation, and management of the building, as well as the public dissemination of the building and its history. Another challenge lies in the management of these valuable and diverse data, and their storage for the benefit of future generations and future interventions.

Mohammed Khandaker: The potential for vertical aquaponics and growing Asian and other exotic vegetables in aquaponics

The main focus of Mohammed’s research is an investigation of the potential for vertical aquaponics. The hypothesis is that vertical aquaponics saves space and energy, and thus could be significantly more productive than horizontal aquaponics. The plant component occupies most of the space of an aquaponic system, which is particularly relevant in urban areas where the cost of space is very high. Mohammed’s research focuses on maximising the plant growing space by looking at vertical farming and in particular living walls that are normally used to grow ornamental plants vertically and at high density. Vertical aquaponics could therefore potentially produce more food per unit area and thus increase commercial viability.

The second part of his research focuses on growing Asian and other exotic vegetables. There are a number of species that are currently imported which could potentially be produced using aquaponics. Growing these locally would reduce the environmental and economic cost of the produce, which would also be fresher, tastier and healthier, and can be verified as pesticide and chemical-free.