Photo: Matteo de Mayda |

The World Bank predicts that the world population will grow to almost 10 billion in the next four decades. By 2050, the global demand for food is expected to be 60-70% higher than today. Scarcity of water and cultivable land are the main obstacles to meet the quantitative and qualitative shifts of the world’s demand. Agriculture is the human activity that relies most on the existing water resources. The scarcity of arable land and fresh water for agriculture is being exacerbated by changes in the climate, exposing many areas to increased risks and contribute to make them even more vulnerable to the problem of water and food security. The rising sea level, for example, contributes to flooding of extensive areas of fertile land with salt water.

Tackling these challenges in a holistic way can produce considerable improvement in water and food security of coastal communities. Jellyfish Barge is a module for crop cultivation that doesn’t rely on soil, fresh water and chemical energy consumption. It is a floating agricultural greenhouse, able to purify salt, brackish or polluted water using solar energy. It is built with low-cost technologies and simple materials, also appropriate to the self-construction paradigm. It consists of a wooden base of about 70 square meters that floats on recycled plastic drums and supports a glass greenhouse for crop cultivation. Inside the greenhouse, a high-efficiency hydroponic cultivation method provides up to 70% of water savings compared to traditional hydroponic systems. Required water is supplied by 7 solar desalination units arranged around the perimeter that are able to produce up to 150 liters 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. The solar desalination system of the Jellyfish Barge replicates this phenomenon on a smaller scale. It is modular, so a single element is completely autonomous, while various flanked barges create a stronger and more resilient organism.

Coordination by Prof. Stefano Mancuso
Project by Antonio Girardi and Cristiana Favretto
Cultivation by Elisa Azzarello, Elisa Masi, Camilla Pandolfi and LINV researchers
Solar desalination by Paolo Franceschetti
Supported by Regione Toscana and Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze
Promoted by University of Florence

Jellyfish barge is a project developed by Pnat