As if growing food in underground greenhouses wasn’t sci-fi enough, now there’s food growing underwater—and not fish or seaweed, either. Would you believe strawberries? How about beans and basil in underwater greenhouses? True story.
That’s what’s happening just off the coast of Italy, near the town of Noli in Nemo’s Garden: an experimental underwater greenhouse project 20 feet under water.
“The balloon-like biospheres take advantage of the sea’s natural properties to grow plants,” reports the Washington Post. “The underwater temperatures are constant, and the shape of the greenhouses allows for water to constantly evaporate and replenish the plants. What’s more, the high amounts of carbon dioxide act like steroids for the plants, making them grow at very rapid rates.”
The project is the brainchild of Sergio Gamberini, president of Ocean Reef Group, a diving equipment company. Gamberini’s “crazy” idea soon became a reality (the company now has a patent on the structure), and Ocean Reef Group now monitors five underwater biospheres growing a variety of plants including basil, lettuce, strawberries and beans.
Like the underground greenhouse in London, this greenhouse project is also protected from pests and even invasive plants, so there’s no need for chemical pesticides or herbicides. And underwater, why take the risk of leaching contaminants into the ocean?
“I try to do something that’s a little different and to show the beauty of the ocean,” Gamberini said. “I hope to do something for the young people and to inspire new dreams.”
“It’s been a learning curve,” said Sergio’s son, Luca Gamberini. “We completely lost the crops four times, but it didn’t really matter because we have such great growth rates.”
It took Ocean Reef Group about two years and many failed attempts to get the biospheres anchored to the seafloor. They’re monitored via Web streams and sensors, which collect data on the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
While Ocean Reef Group has yet to start selling its underwater grown harvest, the Gamberinis have eaten from them, and the goal is to increase production so these biospheres can become a revenue and food source around the world, without damaging the marine environment.
“In the future, it’ll definitely be something that’s economically sustainable,” Luca Gamberini said. “I see possibilities for developing countries where harsh conditions make it difficult for plants to grow.”
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