Look inside Nemo’s Garden, a surreal underwater farm

To conserve water and energy, an Italian project is experimenting with growing plants in underwater “biospheres.”

These alien-looking structures are parts of Nemo’s Garden, an installation in the waters off the Italian village of Noli that’s testing how plants grow in undersea greenhouses.

An hour’s drive from Genoa in northwestern Italy, off the coast of the picturesque village of Noli, nine transparent plastic bubbles appear to hover underwater—their trapped air fragrant with the scent of herbs.

The installation, known as Nemo’s Garden, is an experiment meant to test the viability of underwater greenhouses. The submerged “biospheres” consist of plastic domes rigged up with hydroponic equipment, plant seeds, and air-circulating fans. Each dome is like “a miniature space station,” says Sergio Gamberini, the inventor of Nemo’s Garden and the CEO of Ocean Reef, a U.S.-Italian company that primarily makes scuba diving equipment.

Gamberini’s hope is to help arid coastal countries grow more food without the costly need to desalinate water for crops. His unconventional approach has fascinated photographer Luca Locatelli, who visited the site last year to explore its biospheres and even sample pesto made with the undersea basil. “We need someone who thinks about crazy things—not only ordinary inventions—that are coming out of a real passion,” Locatelli says. “It might be something, it might not, [but] I like the fact that someone is so brave to invest money on such a thing.”


Luca Locatelli is an environmental photographer and filmmaker focused on the relations between people, science and technology, and the environment. This story is part of an immersive exhibition created for the Museum of Photography Gallerie d'Italia Torino-Intesa San Paolo in partnership with the Ellen McArthur Foundation.

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