This Underwater Garden Can Grow 600 Species of Crops

published Dec 9, 2022
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overhead view of a variety of plants, mostly vegetable and herbs
Credit: Daria Minaeva/Shutterstock

Climate change is proving to be a huge problem for farmers whose crops are being thwarted by drought, flood, and other extreme weather conditions. So, researchers and gardeners with Nemo’s Garden, a new initiative based in Noli, Italy, wanted to test a new environment for growing crops to see if there’s a future in farming underwater.

Nemo’s Garden has already successfully grown about 600 crops from around the globe, ranging from tobacco to mandarins, under the ocean.

To do so, scuba diver and gardener Sergio Gamberini and his team anchored clear plastic pods to the ocean floor with chains and screws. Each pod is filled with about 2,000 liters of air and sits anywhere between 15 to 36 feet below the ocean’s surface. And all the biosphere pods are connected by a 12-foot treelike structure that runs electric cables powered by solar panels used to monitor pod conditions from above.

Divers can then tend to the plants within the pods by swimming into them from below. Once their torsos are inside, they can remove their oxygen masks and do their gardening. 

The plants inside are watered regularly with condensation that builds up on the inner walls and when it’s time to harvest, divers take reusable containers or bags with them into the pods, harvest the plants, and bring them back to the surface.

Nemo’s Garden has been a work in progress since 2012 when Gamberini grew his first crop of basil in a single pod. Now, there is a lot more tech involved and gardeners are growing crops all year round and are regularly innovating the project. So far, gardeners have had success growing over 600 fruits, veggies, flowers, and herbs.The company hopes to be able to scale up the project in the years to come, though more research and trial and error must be conducted before Nemo’s Garden is able to handle larger numbers of crops.

Tourists are encouraged to visit Nemo’s Garden to see the project up close and talk with those involved.