The Geneva-based Ocean Reef Group, a scuba diving company, is taking food production under water. With the assistance of agricultural experts, it is operating the research project Nemo’s Garden. Launched in 2012, the project is now testing the feasibility of operating on commercial scale. It currently comprises seven pods, or ‘biospheres’, each with a capacity of 22 plant pots.
Based on the principle of hydroponics, the ‘biospheres’ generate fresh water through desalination. Seawater within the bodies evaporates and condensates at the top of the bodies. The drops then trickle back down as fresh water. The water in turn is used to feed the plants, including red cabbage, lettuce, basil, strawberries and protein-rich beans.
Contrary to other approaches such as underground hydroponic systems and greenhouses, the applied technique does not require heating and cooling systems as well as regulation of temperature by LED lights. The aquatic environment provides constant temperature and avoids rigorous weather conditions experienced on land. The structures are located five to eight metres below sea level, allowing the red spectrum of the sunlight which is vital for most of plants to reach the crops. Despite the interest of businesses and organisations, Ocean Reef Group does not intend to sell the concept.