Co.Design

A Modular Garden That Floats Across The Sea

A group of designers see oncoming sea level rise not as potential catastrophe, but an opportunity for agriculture.

We may be able to deal with looming overpopulation by stacking people into ever taller high rises, but growing crops that way becomes a much tougher proposition. What happens to food production when we simply run out of land? We can go to the oceans.

Sealeaf is a floating garden, designed to grow crops off coastlines. Designed by Jason C. Cheah, Idrees Rasouli, Sebastian Wolzak, and Roshan Sirohia, it’s a modularly expandable system that’s essentially a floating dock with a greenhouse on top.

"Essentially, we believe that instead of trying to design against rising sea levels and urbanisation, why not use it as a source and view the situation as a positive?" Cheah writes.

Sealeaf modules, which cost $50 apiece, are linked together by a mortar of walkways. So farmers can tend to the crops as needed, but maintenance is relatively automatic, thanks to rain collection along with a 1W solar panel that drives root aeration. These financials are an important point. Because while most of us consider coastline to be premium property, the team has found that in dense urban areas like Singapore, leasing a dock is a fraction of the cost of leasing land. Meanwhile, in a case study using bok choi, each Sealeaf module could grow six plants at a time, with seven harvests per year. That equated to 44lbs of food, or $105 in crop revenue in the first year.

Then, when you consider all of the saved ancillary costs—all those trucks burning diesel that no longer need to ship in certain fresh goods—the idea certainly becomes exciting. But I can’t help but be a bit skeptical as to how the system would scale alongside the larger ecosystem. Our shallow coastlines feature some of our most diverse, solar-dependent life in the ocean. We have to be careful not to steal their sun.

As of today, Sealife is about 70% realized, 30% concept. A future iteration could incorporate a wave power system to further lower the price.

See more here.

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