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Offshore farms are a form of agriculture designed to increase food production capacity and to counteract the effects of the climate crisis. Offshore farms do not rely on crop fields, and products can be produced off-shore or in artificial environments. Though floating agriculture is an age-old practice in many places like Bangladesh, the popularity of this method is beginning to gain more attention worldwide.
Prototypes of dairy farms, hydroponics, aquaculture, and other growing methods on floating barges are currently being developed. These floating platforms, a type of Adaptable Floating Station, can operate in cities next to oceans, ports, rivers, and lakes, helping to find solutions for land usage, water demand, and waste processing. Some initiatives include an in-house desalination plant (if floating on seawater) which in the future coudl even use methods such as Nanophotonic Water Desalination. Processing facilities such as a fish-processing center and a packaging facility may also feature. For dairy farms, animals can be milked and fed by robots, and their manure used to create a natural fertilizer by-product.
Also designed to be sustainable and self-sufficient, these floating farms could follow a closed-loop system concept, which may be an essential feature for feeding city systems in populous and urbanized areas. The platform would combine expertise in recycling, building on water, and automated agriculture. It would also increase sustainability protocols through the creation of a reliable food chain.
Atmospheric Water Harvesting could provide freshwater for drinking or irrigation needs. Current prototypes of floating farm barges such as Rotterdam's Floating Farm use leftover food to feed livestock, but in future an Electric Bioreactor could be used to produce synthesised, sustainable animal feed. Indeed, floating barges could make use of available marine resources to manufacture Seaweed Biofertilizer to provide nutrients to crops.
By their very nature, Floating Barges are mobile, and case of an emergency or specific need, they could also be easily moved to new locations. New locations could be identified and assessed with data collected from Satellite Image Processing (SIP), a method which has particular value in land-based agriculture but could be extended to the marine environment.
Underwater farms are underwater pods designed to cultivate seaweed and other marine species by taking advantage of all the characteristics found in seawater, from its constant temperature to its protection from exposure to land-based extreme weather conditions. Underwater pods are usually submerged five to eight meters below the surface, providing a steady temperature to culture, while avoiding exposure to land-based extreme weather conditions.
Underwater pods can also be used to cultivate other plants such as lettuce, basil, and strawberries via hydroponic techniques, as prototyped by Nemo's Garden. In underwater pods, natural processes of evaporation and condensation within the pods, aided by a constant temperature at depth underwater, provide a source of freshwater, essential for plant growth.
Hydroponic systems are well suited to contained environments, or closed loop systems such as in Automated Home Farming applications. Replaceable grow slabs contain all necessary nutrients for plant growth, and contained environments are designed to protect plants from pests. Should anything detrimental to plant growth be introduced to the underwater pods by accident, Nano Biopesticides could be used as anti-fungal and anti-insecticidal agents that simultaneously act as pest control.
Other approaches include cultivating seafood such as scallops, clams, oysters, and mussels in water columns alongside seaweed and shellfish. As opposed to regular crops, these ocean farming systems naturally remove nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon dioxide from the water, thus helping protect ocean ecosystems and decrease ocean acidification, which is a consequence of carbon pollution. By soaking up carbon and keeping surrounding waters safe for shellfish and other vulnerable creatures, these seaweed-populated underwater farms would serve as a kind of sanctuary for crabs, shrimp, and other marine species.
In a world threatened by the risks of the climate crisis, offshore farms could emerge as the beginning of a broader movement in exploring how humanity will adapt to rising sea levels and more efficient use of space on the water. This approach also provides a solution for famine and reduces the amount of land occupied for farming animal protein and food for humans.
By using maritime or even estuary or riverine territories, these farms could provide more accessible food for coastal populations, lowering long-distance shipping needs and thereby blurring the binarity between rural and urban frontiers. However, questions remain around geopolitical issues, such as where these pods or floating barges may be positioned offshore, raising concerns on how to establish appropriate border policies for these solutions to be correctly deployed. Nonetheless, in the coming years, we may see cities around the globe fully equipped to feed their inhabitants locally, shortening the food value chain and enhancing food security.