Underwater Agriculture: a Plaything or a Solution to Future Food Security?


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Underwater Agriculture

Do you still think that crops can only be grown on land? Ocean Reef Group together with Genova-based scuba diving company have decided to challenge this concept and develop an alternative agricultural solution that doesn’t require soil or freshwater - Nemo’s Garden. The project creators hope that this new method of cultivating terrestrial crops in the sea can become a key to sustainably grow food on a large scale.

Nemo’s Garden has begun in 2012 and currently consists of six biospheres - balloon-like pods pegged to the seabed at 7-9 meters (23-30 feet) beneath the Bay of Noli in Savona, Italy. The biospheres are filled with air and work similar to the diving bells. Five of them have shelves running around the inside of the dome, and on those shelves sit plant pots. The produce being grown, includes red cabbage, lettuce, beans, basil, strawberries, a variety of herbs and medical/cosmetic plants.

nemos garden

Although qualified divers are required to maintain and operate the pods, which adds to the sustaining costs, having a garden underwater offers a few notable advantages, namely:

  • constant temperature;
  • natural evaporation that keeps the garden’s environment humid;
  • high carbon dioxide levels inside the pods, which is good for the plants;
  • no pests or diseases that the plants could be susceptible to and, subsequently, no need for pesticides.

What’s more, the observations showed that plants actually grow quicker in the sea. Other than that, lab analysis of all the crops revealed no significant differences between plants grown on land and underwater.

Despite the fact that this futuristic project has not yet reached commercial scale, its creators believe that it is technically possible and continue improving the Nemo’s Garden. Just this year the company for the first time in 5 years of its existence has received the permission from local authorities to keep the installation on site and operating during the winter. This allowed collecting data about the biospheres’ stability in cooler periods and with less illumination.

Some other innovations implemented in 2017 include:

  • Construction of the 6th biosphere called “the Observatory”, dedicated to the project team and special guests. This biosphere is located slightly outside the pentagon of the Nemo’s Garden and allows the visitors to watch the entire structure. It is equipped with a pipeline coming from the shore for the cleaning of the internal air. The people inside can take off their masks and regulators, stay comfortably seated on the bench, breathe fresh air and use the internal wifi.
  • The invertebrate forest made with organic floating ropes attached to the sea bottom. The invertebrates that grow on these organic ropes can be rinsed to lose the salty water and used as a natural fertilizer for Nemo’s plants.

If you would like to learn more about Nemo’s Garden, you can visit their website or watch live stream videos.

Only time will show whether Nemo’s Garden’s will become a feasible solution to future food security or turn into yet another curious scuba diving site. What do you think of the idea though? Would you like to become a scuba farmer? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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