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This Floating, Water-Filtering Greenhouse Is Designed To Grow Food In Overcrowded Cities

The Jellyfish Barge doesn’t take up space on land, and instead of using valuable freshwater, the hydroponic system filters the polluted water it’s sitting on.

As the global population surges to almost 10 billion in the next four decades, we’ll have to grow as much as 70% more food at the same time that many places are running out of both arable land and water.

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A new greenhouse is designed to help feed the most overcrowded cities. Instead of taking up space on land, the Jellyfish Barge floats in bays or rivers. And instead of using valuable freshwater, it filters the polluted water it’s sitting on. The whole system uses no external energy and no soil.


“The Jellyfish Barge is a local solution for a global problem,” says Elisa Masi, a researcher from the University of Florence who is part of a team working on the project with architects from Studiomobile. The barge is simple and cheap to build. Here’s the construction in action, using wood and recycled plastic drums to create a base that will hold up the glass greenhouse:

Because the greenhouse uses a hydroponic system, which takes 70% less water than regular agriculture, only a small water supply is necessary. A solar distillation system sucks damp air into the floating drums below the greenhouse, where the moisture condenses into distilled water. As much as 150 liters of water can be collected in a single day, and then it is mixed with a small amount of seawater if needed. Highly polluted water goes through a second step of filtration.

The barge is designed to feed about two families, but it can easily expand. The greenhouses are designed to connect to one another with square floating bases, which can serve as meeting places or markets in the formation of a small water community.

A prototype of the barge is currently floating in a canal between Pisa and Livorno, Italy. After more testing, the designers plan to begin manufacturing it for the rest of the world. “We think that the idea of Jellyfish Barge suggests how simple solutions combined in an original way can help in solving big issues,” Masi says.

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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