There may be a worldwide shift toward floating agriculture as populations rise and the availability of arable soil diminishes.

In order to feed the growing global population, one design idea for future food security is to move farming from land to the abundant oceans.

London-based designers Roshan Sirohia, Jason Cheah, Sebastiaan Wolzak and Idrees Rasouli have created a concept called SeaLeaf which is a floating device like a buoy which grows vegetables through hydroponics.

In just two years, it is estimated that 340 million people will reside in the world’s 21 megacities. Of these cities, 18 are situated next to the ocean, which makes floating agriculture a real possibility for large-scale food production.

The SeaLeaf design team created the floating agricultural platform using an expandable, modular concept, allowing urban farmers to grow food directly on the water.

“At SeaLeaf we believe that while our working urban space decreases and land prices increase there is a bigger, underutilised ‘land’ around our cities – water,” said the designers.

Using irrigated rain water and natural sunlight, plants can be grown within a kilometre of the nearest pier or ocean access point, making use of the vast sea.

Designers of SeaLeaf

Designers of SeaLeaf

The SeaLeaf design controls the amount of sunlight plants are exposed to through a ‘smart lid’ so it can be used in almost any location, including those exposed to harsh sunlight.

The SeaLeaf designers envision a network of climate-resilient farms to feed millions of people in areas where there is no more land available for agriculture. They aim to create a local agricultural process that would produce fresh, local food that could be sold at a reasonable price and would leave less of a carbon footprint from transport.

“As design students, our new point of view was also to address the problem of food miles and natural local production by basing our ideas around simple, inexpensive solutions and use locally available resources such as solar energy, rainfall abundance and the local fish farming industry,” said the designers.

The idea was based on already-established agricultural practices in Bangladesh, where land is scarce and water is used for growing crops.

Floating gardens in Bangladesh use bamboo poles and water hyacinth as a base upon which soil and plants are added once sturdy. This method extends the growing capabilities of communities where land is unavailable, offering a cheap and sustainable alternative.

Floating garden in Bangladesh

Floating garden in Bangladesh

Sirohia, Cheah, Wolzak, and Rasouli won the Core 77 design award last month for their work in food design, which they hope will contribute to the future food security of many nations.

The SeaLeaf floating garden is one approach that designers anticipate will be huge in countries like Asia and India.

Potential lies within the SeaLeaf design to appeal to sea-bound farmers looking to cultivate high quality and high yielding produce for local markets, hotels and restaurants.

Further testing and prototyping still lies ahead for the team at SeaLeaf but they anticipate the design will go mainstream within a couple of years.

“We’re working on the size, working on the form, as well as working with fish farmers to bring their feedback into the SeaLeaf,” said Rasouli. “After that, we’re looking for funding and opportunities to create a much more developed version.”