A floating agricultural greenhouse producing food without consuming land, fresh water or energy.
Images by Matteo de Mayda
In a world where resources are increasingly scarce, how will we produce the food we need, where will we get fresh water and new areas for cultivation? A multidisciplinary team of architects and botanists offer a revolutionary answer to these questions. The Jellyfish Barge is has been designed for communities vulnerable to water and food scarcity and it is built with simple technologies and with low cost and recycled materials.
Jellyfish Barge is a project coordinated by professor Stefano Mancuso (University of Florence), director of the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology and projected by the architects Antonio Girardi and Cristiana Favretto (Studiomobile).
The working prototype, produced by LINV (University of Florence) thanks to the contribution of the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze and Regione Toscana, has been installed in the Navicelli canal between Pisa and Livorno.
Designed by the architects Antonio Girardi and Cristiana Favretto, Jellyfish Barge is a modular greenhouse mounted on a floating base, able to guarantee water and food security without impacting on existing resources.
Appropriate strategies to provide access to food and water largely depend on cultural, social and economic conditions of referring communities. Successful, long-term solutions are those able to adapt to evolving situations and flexible to different needs of different areas. Thus, JFB has been conceived as a flexible construction using simple construction technologies and low cost and recycled materials.
The structure consists of a wooden base of about 70 square meters, floating on 96 recycled plastic drums, held together by wooden reticular beams running along the perimeter and the radiuses of the octagon. The drums are screwed on the upper deck supporting the structure of the greenhouse and of the solar desalination units.
Fresh water is provided by seven solar stills arranged along the perimeter, designed by the environmental scientist Paolo Franceschetti. They can produce up to 150 litres per day of clean fresh water from salt, brackish or polluted water. Solar distillation is a natural phenomenon: in the seas, the sun’s energy evaporates water, which then falls as rain water. In Jellyfish Barge the solar desalination system replicates this phenomenon in small-scale, sucking moist air and forcing it to condense into drums in contact with the cold surface of the sea. The low energy required to power fans and pumps is provided by photovoltaic panels integrated in the structure.
The greenhouse incorporates an innovative hydroponic system. Hydroponics is a crop production technique using 70 per cent less water compared to traditional cultivation, thanks to the continuous re-use of water. In addition Jellyfish Barge uses about 15% of seawater, which is mixed with distilled water, ensuring even greater water efficiency. The system has an innovative automated system with remote monitoring and control.
Jellyfish Barge is innovative in its ability to respond effectively with limited resources. For this reason it has been designed relatively small in size, capable of supporting about two families, thus easy to be build even in conditions of economic constrains. However, it is modular, so a single element is completely autonomous, while various flanked barges can guarantee food security for the whole community. The octagonal shape of the platform allows combining different modules by connecting them with square floating bases, which may become markets and meeting places of a small water community.
Jellyfish Barge is the result of a coherent and structured path developed by Studio mobile since 2009 on the use of natural resources. In particular in the evocative installations Jellyfish Farm and Networking Nature, presented at the Venice Architecture Biennal 2012, it has enhanced the importance of the sea as a valuable resource.
Jellyfish Barge is a project by Antonio Girardi and Cristiana Favretto (Studiomobile), developed by a multidisciplinary team coordinated by prof. Stefano Mancuso of the University of Florence and director of the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology (LINV).
Jellyfish Barge will be produced by Pnat, a spin-off of the University of Florence. The team is composed by prof. Stefano Mancuso, the researchers Camilla Pandolfi, Elisa Azzarello and Elisa Masi and the architects Cristiana Favretto and Antonio Girardi, founders of Studiomobile. Pnat is the first Italian think tank merging design, science and biology to provide technological and creative solutions to the main sustainability concerns: in a planet with finite resources, how to ensure food security and access to water and how to guarantee the resilience of communities to environmental changes?