In a bid to explore alternative methods of growing produce, an Italian company has created the world’s first underwater farm. The futuristic station – aptly named Nemo’s Garden – consists of five transparent biospheres anchored to the bottom of the sea off the coast of Savona, Italy. They’re being used to grow strawberries, basil, beans, garlic, and lettuce.
“The main target of this project is to create alternative sources of plant production in areas where environmental conditions make it difficult to grow crops through conventional farming, including lack of fresh water, fertile soils, and extreme temperature changes,” said project spokesperson Luca Gamberini. “We are trying to find an alternative and economically viable technology enabling efficient production.”
The five pods, currently floating between depths of 18 and 36 feet, are constantly monitored by Ocean Reef Group – a diving equipment company – from a control center on dry land. “We have installed many webcams and we can easily check on everything,” Gamberini said. “We also have a sensor panel with live data feed from the lab biosphere – so all data is live, on the internet and accessible to anyone.”
According to various news reports, the plants are kept hydrated by drips of water that condense on the inner walls of the biospheres. With a constant temperature of 79 degrees day and night, and humidity at around 83 percent, the conditions are ideal for plants to thrive. The high amount of carbon dioxide also accelerates growth.
Ocean Reef president Sergio Gamberini said he came up with the idea of growing plants underwater during a summer vacation in Italy. In his own words, he wanted to “do something that’s different and to show the beauty of the ocean.” After two years of failed attempts, they finally were able to get these five biospheres working. A report in the Washington Post suggests that their success “may lay the foundation for a new form of crop production that can be done without harming the environment.”
In fact, the biosphere seems to be attracting wildlife. Octopuses and endangered seahorses are taking shelter under the structures, while crabs are crawling up the anchors and into the greenhouses. None of the creatures have damaged the plants so far. “It’s so kind of sci-fi to see these two different forms of life interact,” Gamberini said.
Ocean Reef has a patent on the unique underwater pods, and they plan to roll out smaller aquarium versions that people can keep in their homes. Depending on the outcome of this project, they also plan to experiment with other crops like mushrooms. They haven’t sold their produce yet – for now, they’re using it to make pesto sauce for their guests!
Photos: Nemo’s Garden/Facebook