While enjoying a vacation by the Italian sea, Sergio Gamberini wondered whether he could combine his passions for scuba diving and gardening to grow basil underwater.
Indeed, akin to most herbs, this essential ingredient for pesto prefers protected, sunny locations with well-drained soils and a constant, stable temperature - everything the bottom of the sea can provide!
From this question, Sergio created Nemo’s Garden. This project consists of transparent, air-filled biospheres 20 feet below the sea surface to create an alternative agriculture system.
Underwater agriculture presents many advantages over standard agriculture. First, the biospheres are self-sustainable in terms of water. Indeed, the seawater at the biospheres' bottom evaporates and condensates on the internal surfaces, creating fresh water for the plants. Also, since the biospheres contain a parasite-free closed ecosystem, no pesticide is necessary. Finally, data have shown Sergio’s team that higher pressure conditions positively affect plant growth.
Otherwise, current experiments demonstrated that the amount of sunlight illuminating the biosphere is sufficient to allow the plants to grow.
Why does it matter? Today, 70% of global fresh water is used for agriculture, and the growing population will further increase the pressure on water resources. In this context, agriculture is one of the most vulnerable sectors to climate change.
For now, Nemo’s Garden is an experiment, and underwater agriculture's limits are yet to be defined. However, this project is extremely interesting for our planet's future as it uses renewable energy from the sun and generates fresh water from sea water desalination.