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This company is growing food underwater

Words by Abi Scaife

Have you ever thought about growing food underwater?

Nemo’s Garden is the first underwater garden for terrestrial plants – and the implications of that are huge.

Sergio Gamberini, the founder of the diving equipment company Ocean Reef Group, was on holiday with friends when he was inspired to combine his two passions: diving and gardening.

With some experimentation, and some hard work, Nemo’s Garden has been able to create underwater biospheres capable of growing terrestrial plants.

Smiley News was able to catch up with Nemo’s Garden to hear more about how the environmental implications of growing food underwater - and how exactly that works.

What is Nemo’s Garden? 

Nemo’s Garden is an underwater greenhouse system for [the] production of superfoods [and] enriched/unique plants, a sustainable agriculture alternative to traditional land-based cultivation of plants, an underwater research lab studying effects of extreme environments on plant growth and physiology and a beautiful touristic attraction. 

Explain how the biosphere works - what impact does it have on the environment?

Biospheres replicate, on a micro-scale, the normal water cycle. They are confined volumes of air, submerged below sea level, and anchored to the sea floor. The humidity contained in the [biosphere] will condense along the internal surface due to the difference in temperature between the air and the outside body of water. The condensation is purified fresh water that can be collected and used for plant irrigation. 

The sea around the biosphere acts as a huge, natural, basin of thermal energy, either absorbing the excess or slowly giving it to the biosphere – acting as a natural balancing of the internal volume of air. Acting as a refuge for small organisms, the biospheres naturally attract a food chain that quite quickly develops on and around them, repopulating the vicinity much like an artificial reef would.

What are the environmental benefits of using an underwater biosphere rather than a regular greenhouse? 

Biospheres maximize the natural sea warming/cooling effect, reducing the need to do it by consuming energy. Biospheres naturally feature a desalination process, reducing the need to consume energy to provide plants with fresh water. 

Biospheres can be installed in bodies of water - an “unused space” that can be sustainably exploited – whereas greenhouses need a free land surface with a set of other needs that might not be available (such as freshwater). 

Biospheres do not need any sort of pesticide and are not prone to contamination from the outside [and] naturally cut out harmful light.

In working toward a sustainable solution, how do you evaluate your impact on the environment? 

Our dream is that this technology will be used along shorelines across the globe, capturing and sequestering CO2 from the oceans, growing food for coastal areas, reducing and limiting the need to increase land-arable land (diminishing the pressure on scarce resources such as land, water). 

This will reduce the need for isolated, water-locked countries and communities to ship massive quantities of produce across the globe. Creating a new industry sector, and new jobs, empowering coastal and lake communities to become underwater farmers, boosting the connection of our technology with sustainable seaweed and seashell farming, and improving the impact of fish farming. 

What have you achieved so far? 

So far we have succeeded in proving that growing a plant underwater is possible, it can be replicated, and it can be done sustainably or with a massive reduction of the related footprint created. Also, it can be an exportable system, can fit in the existing place and ecosystem selected, and carries indirect benefits for the local ecosystem.

Charity check-in 

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article. 

Trees For Cities. They are working to plant more trees within large metropolitan areas, for the betterment of people and planet. Support them here.

The Canal & Rivers Trust. The Rivers Trust are conservation experts who work to create wild, healthy, natural rivers. Support them here.

Blue Marine Foundation. A charity dedicated to restoring the ocean to health by addressing overfishing, one of the world's biggest environmental problems. Support them here.

This article aligns with the UN SDGs Decent Work and Economic Growth, Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, Responsible Consumption and Production and Climate Action.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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