The modular Jellyfish Barge could be a solar-powered solution to food shortages.
Drought-stricken agricultural regions often look to the sky for solutions, but a multi-disciplinary team of Italian researchers and designers decided to look toward to sea. Their concept, a floating, modular hydroponic greenhouse called the Jellyfish Barge, has already proven itself as a potential new avenue for growing fruits and vegetables (consider the fact that the first crop impressed the Italians as a good sign). Dwell spoke with one of the designers, Antonio Girardi, to learn about the process and potential of the solar-powered floating farm.
Resembling a set piece from Waterworld, the simple skeleton, a roughly 750-square-foot wood base and glass greenhouse, floats atop 96 buoyant recycled plastic drums and boasts a sophisticated monitoring systems to maximize efficiency and water usage. Built to be modular, the barges can be lashed together to form larger floating farms.
Built with low-cost and recycled materials, the octagonal Jellyfish Barge supports 70 square meters of stacked hydroponic grow racks. Launched in the Navicelli canal in Pisa this past October, the floating farm has already produced a bumper crop of lettuce and radicchio.
“We need so much more food by 2050, 70% more than we use today,” says Antonio Giradi, a project designer and principal at Studiomobile. “The real problem is that we need so much more water and don’t have enough land.” The Jellyfish Barge creates a floating substitution for arable land with a series of seven solar stills, which recreate the natural process of solar desalination. Designed by environmental scientist Paolo Franceschetti, the system can clean up 150 liters of saltwater or polluted water a day.
A multidisciplinary team of scientists and designers came together to create the Jellyfish Barge. The group included professor Stefano Mancuso, director of the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology, researchers Camilla Pandolfi, Elisa Azzarello and Elisa Masi, and architects Cristiana Favretto and Girardi (pictured above).
Girardi expects regions like the Arab Peninsula, which offer the exemplary combination of sea and sun, to be great testing grounds and areas for expansion. With a showcase set for the upcoming Milan Expo, the team behind the platform hopes to find a wealth of opportunities to try out their solution.