Underwater farms where strawberries, basil and lettuce grows inside balloons could become a major source of plant production if the current Nemo's Garden Project proves successful.
The project was started in 2012 and the first seeds were planted inside the underwater structures at the end of June.
Photos of the farm shows the otherworldly transparent pods tied to the bottom of the sea floor in the Bay of Noli, in the province of Savona, Italy.
At present, there are five biospheres of varying sizes floating between 18 and 36 feet beneath the surface of the ocean. Each has a series of seedbeds inside them, where the crops grow.
Nemo's Garden aims to create alternative sources of plant production in places where the environmental conditions mean conventional farming is problematic – possibly because of a lack of fresh water, fertile soils or extreme temperature changes.
The biospheres eliminate these issues – they are at a near-constant temperature both day and night, while the evaporation of the sea water condenses on the biosphere walls, creating ideal conditions for plant growth.
The pods are managed from a support station on the shore, where researchers can monitor the status of the crops, communicate with divers and control the physical environmental parameters.
Nemo's Garden is operated as part of the Ocean Reef Group. Luca Gamberini, whose father Sergio came up with the idea for Nemo's Garden, said at the moment they are focusing on underwater plant growth but hope to develop further in the future.
One idea is to create a smaller aquarium version that people could experiment with themselves. "In the future, it'll definitely be something that's economically sustainable," He told the Washington Post. "I see possibilities for developing countries where harsh conditions make it difficult for plants to grow."