The simple fact of being able to draw from Ocean Reef's strong research and development expertise was surely of great help, and so was being able to use a wide array of equipment designed for a richer and more natural diving experience.
Conversely, Nemo's Garden soon became a place for experimenting or for testing new equipment under development.
Today, in fact, many beta tests are conducted at Nemo's Garden, which thus serves as an expansion of our Innovation Center and represents perhaps the highest expression of our commitment to research.
Our underwater farm is composed of 6 air-filled clear plastic pods, anchored to the bottom of the sea by chains and screws, just off the coast of Noli, Italy.
These acrylic structures, resembling large balloons, hold approximately 2,000 liters of air and float at different depths, between 15 and 36 feet below the surface of the water.
Each biosphere has a step grid where the divers may stand to operate. When a diver is in the biosphere 1⁄2 of their body is outside of the water.
Inside the biospheres, water condenses on the inner walls, dripping back down to keep the plants watered, while the warm, near-constant sea temperature between day and night creates ideal growing conditions
The tree of life
At the center of Nemo’s Garden, stands the Tree of Life, a 12-feet-tall, 10-feet-wide metal structure weighing approximately half a ton.
It symbolizes evolution and the strive for innovation and technological advancement, suggesting a momentum towards the future.
The Tree of Life also serves an important function in the Garden, in that it conceals the cables running to each biosphere and allows to monitor the area from above, controlling the light levels through a live camera feed.
In addition, two webcams are located in each biosphere, while a wide angle horizontal webcam is placed at the bottom of the sea.
Each biosphere is equipped with sensors for CO2, O2, humidity, air temperature and illumination. The external water temperature is checked in the shallower and deeper biospheres.
A Gyroscope is checking the stability of each one. It is informing the surface that all anchors are properly working and registering any movement. There is a wireless underwater communication network with a 200 meters range of operation from the TREE of LIFE. All divers with Ocean Reef ultrasonic communication units may communicate with each other and also to the surface. When divers start the activity in the biosphere they can communicate with the surface thanks to the full duplex intercom communication system, located in each biosphere.
Built on the shoreline, the Control Tower allows to supervise the functioning of Nemo’s Garden. It is equipped with an ultrasonic surface communication system (used to stay constantly in contact with divers operating underwater), and a full duplex intercom communication system (that allows to communicate with the divers when they get inside the biospheres).
The Control Tower is also fitted with 5 monitors and a laptop, which enable a constant monitoring of the underwater habitat.
This facility also connects Nemo’s Garden to the rest of the World: from here, in fact, we can transmit images live through Ustream and make Skype conference calls.
Our greenhouse gardening is mostly hydroponic-based. Growing plants hydroponically means that they are grown without soil in a controlled environment, instead using a nutrient-rich solution to deliver water and minerals to their roots.
The system we devised, however, does not need the power, temperature regulation tools or LED lighting involved in the classic standard greenhouse cultivation.
Here's how it works:
a 10-meter (400-inch) long spiral tube is installed into the dome which houses 60 seedbeds lined with Grodan stone wool.
The irrigation water and fertilizer are kept in a tank at the lowest part of the spiral. As a water pump pushes the water from the tank to the top of the spiral, it descends by gravity down the spiral, providing nourishment and oxygen to the plants.
A fan - powered by solar panels on top of the Control Tower - creates airflow that reduces humidity on the leaves of the plants.
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