Agriculture and environment

Since the Industrial Revolution triggered a startling progress mankind faced an exponential increase in both living standards and world population. Anyways, as more and more countries around the world are catching up with West health and technology standards, the sustainability of such a progress is just clearly not there. One of the crucial issues will be how to feed a 9 to 10 billion people world without exhausting natural resources. On top of that, agriculture is the second top industry contributing to global greenhouse gases emissions. Given such premises, many of us questioned their eating habits, reducing or excluding meat from our diets. Individual action and consumption choices are great -do not get me wrong- but still further innovation is needed as this does not change the current farming model.

An Italian garden raft

That is the reason we all need great minds to find great solutions to such big issues. Indeed, Italian scientist Stefano Mancuso is revolutionizing Botany by finding out that plants do have what we might refer to as “senses”. Along with changing the scientific community perception of plants, Mr. Mancuso tried to find a way to tackle the issue of scarcity of freshwater. By meeting with “Studiomobile” architecture studio he invented “Jellyfish Barge” a floating greenhouse that runs on renewables and saltwater. The whole is presented as an octagon-shaped platform floating on surface of water, whose peculiar design is such that multiple units might be grouped in order to create “waterfields”.

How does it work?

Jellyfish Barge is an integrated system: it uses energy coming from solar cells to pump water up in its pipes and collects it into its pipes so that the same sun that powers the whole Barge distills saltwater. Then clean water is delivered to lines of vegetables whose roots are permanently drenched in water. In order to float empty recycled barrels are used and the main material that composes the barge is wood, with a polymer delivering sunlight to the plants. Jellyfish Barge is bioinspired, i.e. its whole design is based on the modular and effective patterns that plants employ, thus increasing its overall efficiency. This can be properly assessed by exploiting specific sensors whose result is 70% of water saved. Once experimentation will be over Jellyfish Barge will be fully operative and it is forecasted that it might produce crops enough for sustaining up to two families.


Some questions might arise, though, about the actual implementation of such project on a larger scale. One of the most evident is whether the material the platform is mostly made of -wood- might be the best choice. Indeed, as Jellyfish Barge was projected to be implemented on Africa’s coast, its production might lead to further deforestation in those areas that would adopt this farming device. This would have a negative impact on regions that already experience advancing desertification. Another thing that seems to lack is a proper stabilization of the units: as most countries have coasts on oceans, platforms should resist strong waves, and the current configuration does not perform such a task. Still, we must keep in mind that Jellyfish Barge is a prototype, not ready for a broader diffusion.

Blue Gold

Still, one of the best features of Jellyfish Barge is that it permits us to have access to seawater as an irrigation source. As not-salty water coming mainly from oceans roughly makes up 95-97% of all worldwide water resources, the exploitation of such an enormous potential will be crucial in a future of greater scarcity. Add on top of that that 83% of used clean water is allocated to irrigation and it will be crystal clear what will be our future fons vitae.

Climate Refugees

According to UN statement “some 50 million people may be displaced within the next 10 years as a result of desertification”. “In 2018 alone, 17.2 million new displacements associated with disasters in 148 countries and territories were recorded (IDMC) and drought displaced 764,000 people in Somalia, Afghanistan and several other countries.” said Dina Ionesco, Head of the Migration, Environment and Climate Change (MECC) division at the UN Migration Agency (IOM). This is indeed the very problem with desertification: it is a global issue that leads to mass migrations -as the 2006-2011 draught in Syria showed us by triggering a civil war that is still not over. This will affect the whole European continent as this is the closest area to those countries that experience draught the most.


In conclusion, Jellyfish Barge might be the start of a new way to approach farming systems. Its peculiar features might need further improvement, but this platform still displays the potential to exploit saltwater, a resource that is currently unused. This invention might not only be profitable for some and good for many, it could also enhance greater innovation in the agriculture industry, thus helping to mitigate desertification. References