The floating capsule uses seawater to sustainably grow mushrooms

Kleperis and its pod (left) and the mushrooms growing inside (right). Photos courtesy of Todd Kleperis

A man from Sarasota says he has found the key to sustainable agriculture: good morels.

Driving the news: Todd Kleperis grows mushrooms on the waters off Siesta Key in what he calls the OPod.

  • The capsule hit the water two weeks ago, and within the next two months, he tells Axios that his mushrooms will be in high-end restaurants in Sarasota, though he doesn’t say which ones yet.

State of play: The pod is a form of agricultural technology similar to indoor vertical farming efforts like Brick Street Farms in St. Petersburg.

Why is this important: Climate change is take its toll on the agricultural industry, with rising temperatures costing farmers estimated at $27 billion crop insurance losses between 1991 and 2017.

  • Hurricane Ian is a prime example in Florida, costing the state more than $1 billion in agricultural losses, the University of Florida reported in a new estimate last month. High winds and heavy rains have hit our citrus, livestock, vegetable and melon farms the hardest.

Enlarge: Kleperis’ capsule uses sustainable energy and water, which reduces costs and environmental impact compared to traditional agriculture, he says.

How it works: The pod uses a solar-powered generation system that desalinates ocean water to grow mushrooms in a temperature-controlled environment inside a floating chamber.

  • Kleperis says he chose mushrooms because they are easier to grow with a small amount of water, energy and space. And they are rich in nutrients.
  • Once the mushrooms are harvested, he can replant them in the ground inside the pod and start the process all over again.
  • In future crop cycles, it would like to expand into leafy greens and other fruits and vegetables.

The plot: Kleperis says his capsule is the first of its kind to sustainably grow food on water.

  • The closest thing that compares, he says, is a company called Nemo’s garden which grows food in domes underwater off the coast of Italy.

How did it happen: Kleperis founded his company, Tekmara, last year to launch the pod project. He says he built the pod himself over the course of about 5 months in his garage.

What he says : Kleperis tells Axios that he wants to use the pod not only for sustainable agriculture, but to raise awareness of the importance of protecting our oceans as a food resource.

  • “If we can come out ahead, we can change an entire industry and dramatically help people around the world,” he says.

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