The pungent green herb has long been synonymous with the steep, terraced cliff-sides of Liguria, the northern Italian region known for its spectacular Riviera coastline and for producing one of the world’s best-loved pasta sauces. Those two standout features of the region could now become even more intimately associated thanks to the pioneering efforts of Sergio Gamberini.
The underwater basil garden
A diving nut and specialist in under-water communications, Gamberini has begun growing basil in large plastic spheres anchored to the sea bed 100 metres off shore and eight metres below the surface in an experiment he has dubbed “Nemo’s garden”.
“The idea came to me because I wanted to create more interaction between the surface and the diving activity,” Gamberini told AFPTV. Having started with a simple plastic ball into which he place a tub with herb seeds planted in compost, he is now in his fourth season of production from an under-water garden comprised of three “biospheres” which he is allowed to keep in the water for three months a year.
“I chose a typical activity of farmers, and I said ‘why not bring it under water?'” he said. “I realized that there was an opportunity to create a new site to grow vegetables.”
Evaporation ensures humidity between 80 and 90 percent inside the spheres, the condensation provides the necessary moisture and, even well below the waves, there is enough light in this sunny corner of Europe to ensure the plants themselves regenerate their oxygen supply via photosynthesis. Having proved the system works, Gamberini’s challenge now is to prove that it can produce herbs and vegetables in a cost-efficient way.
“I don’t know if it will be the future because we have to prove that it can be self-supportable,” he said. “If a pound of lettuce (grown underwater) costs too much, it won’t have a future.”
Read More: The Local.it