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article image'Nemo's Garden' is real — Growing fruit and veggies under the sea

By Karen Graham     Jul 10, 2015 in Science
Noli - Off the coast of Noli, Italy you can find a series of experimental greenhouses which are part of the Italian Pavilion theme at EXPO 2015, "How to feed the planet." There is only one problem, though. They are 20 feet under the sea.
An Italian diving company, Ocean Reef Group, has constructed five underwater greenhouses, with the idea of growing plants under the sea. Sergio Gamberini, president of Ocean Reef Group, came up with the "crazy" idea while on a summer vacation in Italy four years ago.
While the greenhouses, at 20 feet deep, are not 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the experimental garden has been named "Nemo's Garden." The botanical facility is made up of five structures that look like old-fashioned diving bells, anchored to the sea floor.
The Nemo s Garden project is an experiment in the use of underwater environments to grow plants in a...
The Nemo's Garden project is an experiment in the use of underwater environments to grow plants in a sustainable and ecological way.
Ocean Reef Group
Air is trapped under a transparent dome suspended beneath the waves, with rings of shelves around the interior, filled with soil beds for fruits and vegetables. I know, you are probably wondering how in the world anyone could expect plants to grow in this kind of climate, but the group has been growing strawberries, basil, lettuce, and beans.
But check this out: The temperature in the greenhouses stays a near-constant 79 degrees Fahrenheit, and water evaporation inside the greenhouses provides an atmosphere rich in humidity, at a constant 83 percent, and carbon dioxide, essential for plant growth. These factors give the underwater garden several advantages, says the Washington Post.
Sergio's son, Luca Gamberini, talked about the couple of rough years getting started with the project that included a number of rough storms. "It's been a learning curve," he said. "We completely lost the crops four times, but it didn't really matter because we have such great growth rates."
Plant growth is phenomenal underwater.
Plant growth is phenomenal underwater.
Ocean Reef Group
And the growth rate underwater is phenomenal. The project has produced decent crops every year, despite any setbacks. And, no, they have not sold any of the crops, but Sergio says his wife has made pesto for large parties. Gamberini has high hopes that the greenhouses will serve as models for a more sustainable food system, growing crops with minimal impact to the environment.
Speaking of environmental impact, the ocean's denizens seem to like the biospheres. Octopuses seem to like taking shelter under the biospheres, and endangered seahorses have been developing nurseries. The group has even seen crabs crawling up the anchors, seeking shelter inside the structures. So far, none of the creatures has bothered the plants, so that's a good sign of things to come.
This experiment could be the answer to feeding the world's population in the future, but could it be done in a way that really is sustainable?
More about nemo's garden, Underwater, Greenhouses, ocean reef group, constant temperature
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