Siemens Enables Underwater Farming Revolution with Digital Twin Solutions

By Taryn Engmark

Associate Editor

Embedded Computing Design

April 07, 2022


Siemens Enables Underwater Farming Revolution with Digital Twin Solutions

Siemens Digital Industries Software announced that Nemo’s Garden, a startup focused on sustainable underwater cultivation of crops, has deployed Siemens’ Xcelerator portfolio of software and services to shorten its innovation cycles and move more rapidly towards industrialization and scale.

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. The next big hurdle in achieving their goal was to turn this prototype into a solution that could be deployed globally.

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. Design changes, lengthy physical testing, and heavy manual monitoring processes during the growth cycle led the Nemo’s Garden team to seek out ways to speed up their innovation and scale the operation.

The team reached out to TekSea’s Matteo Cavalleroni for insight on how to leverage cutting edge technologies to achieve their goals. After the initial consultation, Siemens was invited to join the project, leveraging the Xcelerator portfolio of software and its services to help Nemo’s Garden get to the next stage of development and get ready for industrialization/commoditization.

Using Siemens’ Xcelerator and a digital twin, the Nemo’s Garden team are able to test concepts without the need for physical testing, enabling rapid design iteration.

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 – all accomplished using Siemens’ Simcenter™ STAR-CCM+™ software. Adaptations to the biospheres can be tested in the virtual world, enabling the team to refine the design at a massively accelerated rate.

Siemens’ Xcelerator is a comprehensive, integrated portfolio of software, services and an application development platform. 

Monitoring at the Edge

In addition to engineering the physical biosphere, Nemo’s Garden also needed to optimize 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 that drew on Siemens’ experience in leveraging software to automate traditional farming practices.

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 analyzed 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.

While the newly designed biospheres will not be deployed until the next growing season, the comprehensive digital twin of the growing environment is enabling the team to proceed with plans to further optimize their designs and automate their processes for global deployment.

For more information, visit the Nemo’s Garden website.