Siemens is working with Nemo’s Garden, a start-up that grows crops in biospheres on the ocean floor. By building a “digital twin” of Nemo’s Garden’s sub aqua biosphere the start-up can move more rapidly towards industrialisation and scale.
Nemo’s Garden was founded in 2021. It aims to prove the viability of cultivating herbs, fruit and vegetables underwater. Nemo’s Garden’s key innovation, a sub-aqua biosphere, is a unique type of underwater greenhouse, able to harness the positive environmental factors of the ocean – temperature stability, evaporative water generation, CO2 absorption, the abundance of oxygen and inherent protection from pests – to create an environment ideal for crop cultivation.
The team has not only successfully harvested a variety of crops from its prototype biospheres, but also discovered that plants grown in this environment are nutritionally richer than those grown traditionally.
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Harsh winters, short summers and initial seafloor-use permit limitations capped Nemo’s Garden to one growth cycle a year, which has meant only one innovation cycle per annum. Siemens was invited to join the project, leveraging its Xcelerator portfolio of software and its services to help Nemo’s Garden get to the next stage of development and get ready for industrialisation/commoditisation.
A comprehensive digital twin of the Nemo’s Garden biosphere has been built that encompasses not only its design evolution using Siemens’ NX software, but also enables simulation of the growing conditions within it, the impact of the equipment on the body of water, as well as the full environment in which they are installed. This is accomplished using Siemens’ Simcenter STAR-CCM+ software. The Nemo’s Garden team are no longer limited by weather conditions, seasonality and short growing seasons or limitations on diving and monitoring. Adaptations to the biospheres can be tested in the virtual world, enabling the team to refine the design at a massively accelerated rate.
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Nemo’s Garden also needed to optimise and scale the processes for growing, tracking, and harvesting the plants. To create a sustainable business that did not rely on sending trained divers to collect data, a fully digital, automated approach was created. Existing video of the growing cycles along with reference data from traditional farming operations of the same target crops, at various growth stages and health conditions was analysed using Siemens’ MindSphere service. From this, Siemens was able to train a machine learning algorithm to monitor plant growth as well as the environmental conditions within the domes.
When this algorithm is deployed onto Siemens’ Industrial Edge computing devices in each biosphere, the plants can be monitored via a cloud-based dashboard throughout the season, from anywhere, in real time.
Next season, these Industrial Edge devices will be connected to actuators – to automatically adjust air circulation, humidity, irrigation and nutritional dosing throughout the whole season. This will be the foundation of a global agricultural service, optimized for subsea operations and tuned for each of the world’s oceans.