Poster Title

Neptune's Farm: Research in Underwater Agriculture

Grade Level at Time of Presentation

Freshmen

Institution

Morehead State University

KY House District #

99

KY Senate District #

27

Department

Agriculture

Abstract

The goal of our research is to test the possibility of an alternative source of agriculture which could one day help to grow food in areas with adverse environmental conditions. This project is motivated by the idea of utilizing our oceans which cover 71% of the earth’s surface to generate growth of food which cannot be grown elsewhere. Neptune’s Farm is an underwater garden where vegetables are grown for human consumption. The first step in this research was to design underwater transparent air-bells under which plants are grown. The transparent air-bell allowed the sunlight to reach the growing plants, while the inside of the air-bell exposed to sunlight became warmer than the outer water temperature. Because of the differences in temperature between the air inside the air-bell and the water around the structure, the water at the base of the air-bell evaporates and creates condensation in the bell thus watering the greenhouse vegetation. Air-bell prototypes were tested in both fresh water and salt water tanks in the lab. Air-bells were weighted to keep them stable and plants were placed on weighted stands in soil under the air-bells (out of the water). Desalinated or freshwater was used to irrigate the seeds to begin growth. Soil contains micro-organisms that can favor the mold formation in the surrounding environment. For this reason, researchers have tested plant growth in perlite soils. All plants germinated in between 3-5 days and for some of them the growth was very fast. Neptune’s Farm researchers are currently working on a larger scale model based on the air-bell prototypes from the lab. Permission has been granted for this model to be placed in a local quarry in late spring to test the garden in a larger environment allowing for greater plant growth.

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Neptune's Farm: Research in Underwater Agriculture

The goal of our research is to test the possibility of an alternative source of agriculture which could one day help to grow food in areas with adverse environmental conditions. This project is motivated by the idea of utilizing our oceans which cover 71% of the earth’s surface to generate growth of food which cannot be grown elsewhere. Neptune’s Farm is an underwater garden where vegetables are grown for human consumption. The first step in this research was to design underwater transparent air-bells under which plants are grown. The transparent air-bell allowed the sunlight to reach the growing plants, while the inside of the air-bell exposed to sunlight became warmer than the outer water temperature. Because of the differences in temperature between the air inside the air-bell and the water around the structure, the water at the base of the air-bell evaporates and creates condensation in the bell thus watering the greenhouse vegetation. Air-bell prototypes were tested in both fresh water and salt water tanks in the lab. Air-bells were weighted to keep them stable and plants were placed on weighted stands in soil under the air-bells (out of the water). Desalinated or freshwater was used to irrigate the seeds to begin growth. Soil contains micro-organisms that can favor the mold formation in the surrounding environment. For this reason, researchers have tested plant growth in perlite soils. All plants germinated in between 3-5 days and for some of them the growth was very fast. Neptune’s Farm researchers are currently working on a larger scale model based on the air-bell prototypes from the lab. Permission has been granted for this model to be placed in a local quarry in late spring to test the garden in a larger environment allowing for greater plant growth.