Dutch courage World’s first float­ing dairy farm

Construction of the world’s first float­ing dairy farm is un­der way in the Nether­lands, Chris Mc­Cul­lough re­ports

Farms & Farm Machinery - - Contents -

It has taken a lot of time to get the green light but fi­nally construction of the world’s first float­ing dairy farm is un­der way in the Nether­lands.

This in­no­va­tive farm is be­ing built at Rot­ter­dam and will be home to 40 dairy cows when com­pleted. The idea is that the farm will sup­ply the city with fresh dairy prod­ucts ev­ery day, pro­duced, say the de­vel­op­ers, “in an an­i­mal-friendly and cir­cu­lar man­ner”.

Three con­crete floats are cur­rently be­ing con­structed in a dry­dock that to­gether form the foun­da­tions for the float­ing farm. These floats are sched­uled to be shipped to their de­fin­i­tive lo­ca­tion in the Mer­we4Haven in Rot­ter­dam in the mid­dle of May.

How­ever, over the course of de­vel­op­ing this farm a few tar­get dates have been shifted along the way, pro­long­ing the fi­nal open­ing.

The brains be­hind this bold move are from Courage, the in­no­va­tion in­sti­tute of the Dutch agriculture and dairy sec­tor;

Uit Je Ei­gen Stad, the na­tional fron­trun­ner on city farm­ing; and Be­ladon, a lead­ing Dutch com­pany on float­ing con­cepts.

Peter van Winger­den is the project ini­tia­tor on be­half of property de­vel­oper Be­ladon. He says this is a real mile­stone for the project.

“We are ab­so­lutely de­lighted that construction of the float­ing farm has now be­gun,” he says. “Af­ter all the prepa­ra­tions, this is an un­prece­dented mile­stone for ev­ery­one who has worked to get this project up and run­ning.

“Build­ing on wa­ter al­ways brings ad­di­tional chal­lenges with it, although it of­fers us the op­por­tu­nity to re­store food pro­duc­tion to the in­ner city at the same time.

“We be­lieve that build­ing on wa­ter is the way ahead in a coun­try with a chang­ing cli­mate and ever-in­creas­ing ur­ban­i­sa­tion. Float­ing farm is the per­fect scal­able so­lu­tion for ci­ties such as Rot­ter­dam, with a lot of space on the wa­ter.

“In ad­di­tion, we see huge op­por­tu­ni­ties for this pro­to­type all over the world. We will be build­ing with all due speed in the months ahead, so that we can wel­come our first cat­tle later this year.”

Other ben­e­fits of such a sys­tem, close to ur­ban pop­u­la­tions, is re­duc­ing the dis­tance that milk and other dairy prod­ucts need to be trans­ported to ur­ban con­sumers, re­duc­ing green­house gas emis­sions and putting shop­pers back in touch with na­ture and farm­ing.

The farm will house 40 cows on the float­ing struc­ture, mea­sur­ing 40m x 32m.

The cows will be able to use a ‘cow gar­den’ at the top of the struc­ture, with a soft floor which will have the feel of a natural liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment. There will be trees and bushes avail­able to of­fer ar­eas of shade and the roof of the cow gar­den can be en­tirely opened.

Urine pro­duced by the cows will drain through the floor and into an air­tight stor­age fa­cil­ity. By keep­ing it con­tained there, am­mo­nia emis­sions will be limited and it will be able to be dis­trib­uted for use as fer­tiliser for city farms. Ma­nure, on the other hand, will be col­lected and stored sep­a­rately.

A biodi­gester will be em­ployed to turn the ma­nure into bio­gas and fer­tilis­ers, which in turn can be used to help grow the grass used to feed the cows. Rain­wa­ter will be col­lected and fil­tered for the cows to drink.

Cows will have ac­cess to an ad­ja­cent pas­ture by us­ing a bridge be­tween the farm and the dock to cross the wa­ter, when tides per­mit. The cows will be milked with a ro­botic milk­ing ma­chine and they will have ac­cess to ad­di­tional grass on the farm grown un­der LED light­ing.

If the trial pe­riod is deemed a suc­cess the fa­cil­i­ties will be ex­tended so the farm can house 200 cows pro­duc­ing 5000kg of milk per day. Raw milk will be dis­pensed to con­sumers via a pub­lic ‘milk tap’ and vend­ing ma­chines will sell pro­cessed pro­duce. Dairy pro­duce will also be sold to lo­cal cater­ing out­lets, ho­tels and shops.

The new farm will show­case the lat­est tech­nol­ogy money can buy and is said to be an enor­mous as­set for the Dutch agri­cul­tural sec­tor.

“Re­al­i­sa­tion of the float­ing farm is an enor­mous as­set for the Dutch agri­cul­tural sec­tor as a whole,” says Carel de Vries, project ini­tia­tor on be­half of the Courage in­no­va­tion or­gan­i­sa­tion.

We be­lieve that build­ing on wa­ter is the way ahead in a coun­try with a chang­ing cli­mate and ev­er­in­creas­ing ur­ban­i­sa­tion.

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