An Underwater Garden for Normal, Above-Ground Plants

OceanReefGroup, YouTube
OceanReefGroup, YouTube / OceanReefGroup, YouTube

Nemo’s Garden might grow strawberries, basil, and lettuce, but it’s nothing like your average greenhouse. Instead, the plants are grown in a collection of biospheres anchored 20 feet under the Mediterranean Sea, just off the coast of Noli, Italy. Conceptualized three years ago by Sergio Gamberini, the president of the Ocean Reef Group, and created with help from his Ocean Reef team, the five transparent air-filled structures take advantage of the water’s constant temperatures and high amounts of carbon dioxide to give seeds the environment they need to thrive.

Nemo’s Garden wasn’t an immediate success—it took two years of experimentation to get to this point—and there’s still a ways to go. Right now, a permit from the local government has limited the use of the biospheres to only four months out of the year, and while they’ve been able to grow crops, the company has yet to sell them.

Luca Gamberini, son of Sergio and head of the garden's international marketing office, told The Washington Post that in the future, produce grown in biospheres will “be something that’s economically sustainable.” He added that the Nemo’s Garden model could be used by developing countries "where harsh conditions make it difficult for plants to grow." 

The underwater habitats are equipped with oxygen, pH, humidity, temperature, and carbon dioxide monitors to provide real-time data, as well as cameras recording a 24/7 live stream you can watch online. If you’re lucky, you’ll see an octopus, crab, or seahorse, all of which have been exploring the structures and putting them to use. "It's so kind of sci-fi to see these two different forms of life interact," said Luca. 

Four months ago, Ocean Reef posted a video on YouTube of the team tending to their crops. And although they're currently unavailable, one day, you may be able to get your own aquarium-sized Nemo's Garden. 

[h/t io9]