Many farmers find it difficult to cope with the climatic conditions. But not only farmers have a hard time, there are also always problems with the plants on the balcony. Usually it is too warm or too cold, it rains too seldom and pests have now also settled on the plants. Sergio Gamberini had a world-changing idea. Why not just let plants grow underwater?
The Story of Nemo's Garden
In the summer of 2012, Sergio Gamberini, founder of Ocean Reef Group's diving equipment, enjoyed a beach holiday on the Italian Riviera. Between dives, he liked to rest on the beach and chat with friends. One day the conversation turned to his other passion: gardening.
Could it be possible to create the perfect growing conditions for basil?
However, like most herbs, basil prefers sheltered, sunny locations with well-drained soil and a stable temperature.
Gamberini took one look at the sea and came up with an unusual idea: Why don't you try growing basil underwater? In fact, it would have allowed Mr. Gamberini to combine two of his passions: diving and gardening. He made a few phone calls and, with the help of his team at Ocean Reef Group, began experimenting by sinking transparent biospheres 20 meters below the ocean's surface and filling them with air. The unusual project is located off the coast of Noli, about 70 kilometers west of the Italian port city of Genoa.
With the underwater farm there is almost no interaction with the marine environment and related ecosystems. The plants are protected underwater from pests and storms. The use of renewable energy, from the sun and seawater, makes Nemo's Garden a self-sustaining system. The water of the Mediterranean Sea is warm, the temperatures vary only little and there is also enough light.
The microclimate and the thermal conditions in the biospheres are like a conventional greenhouse. Not only are they optimal for plant growth, but they also do not require any additional energy sources.
Image: Nemo's Garden (www.nemosgarden.com)
How can plants grow underwater?
The Greenhouse Underwater
The acrylic constructions underwater, which resemble large balloons, are not called greenhouses but biospheres. They hold approximately 2,000 liters of air and float at varying depths between 15 and 36 feet below the surface of the water.
Each biosphere has a step grid that the divers can deploy into. When a diver is in the biosphere, 1⁄2 of their body is out of the water
These biospheres are similar to a greenhouse. However, the developed system does not require the power, temperature control tools or LED lighting used in classic greenhouse cultivation.
If you would like to take a closer look at the underwater biospheres, then here is a great video about it.
This is how the plants are watered and fertilized
A 10 meter long spiral pipe is installed in the dome, which houses 60 seedbeds lined with Grodan rockwool. The irrigation water and fertilizers are held in a tank at the bottom of the spiral. When a water pump pushes the water from the tank to the top of the spiral, it descends to the spiral by gravity and provides the plants with food and oxygen A fan – powered by solar panels on top of the control tower – creates a flow of air on the leaves of the plants.
In the biospheres, water condenses on the inner walls and drips back to irrigate the plants, while the warm, almost constant sea temperature between day and night creates ideal growing conditions
What soil is used underwater?
None, because the Unterwasser greenhouse nursery is mainly based on hydroponics. With hydroponics, plants are grown without soil in a controlled environment. When it comes to hydroponics, we actually only know planting with expanded clay, it's different here. Instead of soil or expanded clay, a nutrient-rich solution is used to supply the roots with the water and minerals they need.
Want to learn more about hydroponics? We have a fascinating article for you on Hydroponic Plants.
How to monitor Nemo's Garden
Safety for people and the environment is very important to the Ocean Reef Group. However, this required some investment.
The Tree of Life
At the center of Nemo's Garden stands the Tree of Life, a 3.6 meter high, 3 meter wide metal structure that weighs approximately half a ton. It symbolizes evolution and the pursuit of innovation and technological advancement. The Tree of Life also serves an important function in the garden, covering the cables leading to each biosphere. The area can be monitored from above with the help of cameras.
Each biosphere is equipped with sensors for carbon dioxide, oxygen, humidity and lighting. The external water temperature is tested in the shallower and deeper biospheres.
In the article plant sensors you will find many other high-tech developments and how they work.
A gyroscope checks the stability of each biosphere. It informs the surface that all anchors are working properly and registering any movement. There is an underwater wireless communications network with a range of 200 meters from the Tree of Life. When divers use the begin activity in the biosphere, they can communicate with each other and with the surface. Good communication is essential when growing plants underwater.
What plants have been grown so far?
Gamberini has been experimenting with underwater biospheres and plants for several years. They grow basil, lettuce, beans, and even strawberries here.
You don't have a sea to plant? No problem, we'll show you how to easily grow strawberries on your balcony.
Can the project contribute to feeding the world?
Some researchers are still very critical of the Nemo Garden project. The cost is very high and unfortunately the whole system is very impractical. On land, mice, insects and other pests threaten to reduce the harvest, but they are not a problem in the water. It's much easier to apply fertilizer on land.
Unfortunately, the plants do not get enough light underwater. They therefore remain somewhat smaller than those that grow on land.About 40 percent of the sunlight gets stuck on the shell of the biosphere, so only a little more than half of the light reaches the plants. In addition, the sea does not keep the different wavelengths evenly. Above all, it "swallows" the red light that the plants need to grow.
So growing plants underwater does not contribute to feeding the world. On the other hand, it is an environmentally friendly and very exciting innovation that, after intensive study, may be able to be researched further.
If you would like to limit your gardening skills to your home, then we have some wonderful indoor plants in our shop. Feel free to stop by and get inspired..
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