The future of cultivation: Jellyfish Barge

Jellyfish Barge is an incredible project by PNAT, an Italian start up and spinoff from the University of Florence. The acronym “PNAT” stands for Plant, Nature and Technology. It was founded in March 2014, and their first project was completed in September 2015.
What is this Jellyfish Barge that can be used to grow plants without fresh water, soil and electrical power?


Jellyfish Barge in Darsena, Milan.

It is a modular floating greenhouse that was designed for installation in brackish water zones. This is a self-sufficient hydroponic system that allows the production of crops without using freshwater, soil and electrical power. The growth media is formulated using desalinated water and the energy required for the operation of the system is supplied by solar panels.
This system can saves up to 70% of water, as compared to the traditional cultivation methods, which usually cause massive loss of freshwater. One module of Jellyfish Barge has the capacity to maintain the supply of vegetables for two households. Jellyfish Barge can be perfectly integrated within a city, as you can see from the pictures. It is now exposed in Darsena, an area of Milan, Italy. It does not look out of place at all. Its wooden structure recalls the wooden walkways, and of course the plants inside this floating greenhouse recalls the green around the Darsena. This brilliant project can be visited in Darsena everyday from 2pm to 7pm until October 31st, 2015 thanks to the patronage of the Lombardy Region, the Municipality of Milan and Expo 2015.

The PNAT team was readily available to answer a few of my questions while I was writing this article. The following is the email-interview with one of the team member Camilla Pandolfi who specialized in plant materials and biomechanics.

 vKNt4Nx6S52f0k2BBEFhTNIXcTeHdohryT372ldVxblIORLmoX0YWShPZi5pw630DlFPFHpa0xpdhT1qEk2QIMiLgDJfRTayE9IVdZTVFgC2C1pebfyUrzxurIin-4lrDb2-O9lj2SsfYjVVr4RG59Nmd7dQwBD9EJvuygtMUSDWCNQ2qi5ZmO2xYhwTI_rgQ0NV7l8jOxWnZGZ5eW-1-Q: “Would ‘Jellyfish Barge’ be installed soon in other places? and if so, where?”
-A: “We are making arrangement for future installations, but at the moment we can not “reveal” them!”
-Q: “Could ‘Jellyfish Barge’ be economically sustainable even in developing countries, have you evaluated this possibility?”
-A: “Our goal is just to make it economically viable even in developing countries, and we are working on it. In the short term we are focusing in industrialized countries, which can afford technologies of intensive agriculture such as growing in a protected environment (greenhouse) and soilless (hydroponic) but once cut down the prices of manufacturing all of this will be “sustainable” in developing countries. The same thing for the technology itself, and one of the objectives of our future installations will evaluate how our product is acknowledged by other cultures, and how quickly the local population will be able to use it.”

My gratitude to the PNAT team, especially Camilla Pandolfi for her satisfactory answers to my questions.

This project reminds us that there are many ways to achieve a more sustainable life. Through scientific research and innovation, hidden resources and energy sources can be discovered and effectively utilized for a more sustainable world.

Viola Follini



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