Italian divers at the Ocean Reef Group have taken the concept of sustainable farming and blown it out of the water – or, rather, underwater. The world’s first underwater greenhouses, named Nemo’s Garden, have been anchored off the coast of Noli, Italy. So far, five biospheres are providing near-perfect conditions for crops of beans, strawberries, basil, and lettuce and the potential continues to grow.
While growing plants underwater may seem nonsensical or difficult, the designers argue that the constant temperatures and high humidity are excellent for plants, allowing for a continuous cycle of condensation and “rain.” The abundance of carbon dioxide also allows for crops to grow at a rapid pace. The project has been off the ground and into the waters for about four years, with some bumps along the way, yet five greenhouses have been established so far, with more to come. Only 20 feet under the surface, the greenhouses are even more practical than expected.
Having a good chance for consistent production and no need for conventional pesticides of above-ground crops is a good thing, yet the innovative idea begs the question: what is the impact on the surrounding ecosystem? The Ocean Reef Group is dedicated to further research, and their findings so far show that the local wildlife is taking well to the biospheres and they seem to have little to no ill effect. Crabs and octopi all have been observed taking shelter under the spheres and seahorses have been seen creating nurseries for their adorable seahorse families. This experimental project, which provides a high yield of produce and little adverse impact on the environment, sounds perfect for developing countries, which have difficulty growing crops in arid soil. The project hopes to expand its greenhouses to new terrories, develop a small, at-home model for everyday citizens, and will launch a Kickstarter campaign for these efforts soon.
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