The operation in the Dutch city of Rotterdam will supply urban residents with milk and showcase agriculture.
It has taken a lot of time to get the green light, but construction of the world’s first floating dairy farm is finally underway 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.
The plan is that these floats are expected to be shipped to their final location in the Merwe4Haven in Rotterdam in the middle of May.
However, a few target dates have been shifted over the course of developing the farm, which has prolonged 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, project initiator on behalf of property developer Beladon, said this is a real milestone for the project.
“We are absolutely delighted that construction of the floating farm has now begun,” he said.
“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 urbanization. A 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, include 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 40 by 32 metres.
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 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 fertilizer for city farms. Manure, on the other hand, will be collected and stored separately.
A biodigester will turn the manure into biogas and fertilizers, 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 when tides permit.
The cows will be milked with a robotic milking machine and have access to additional grass on the farm grown under LED lighting.
The goal is to extend the facilities once the trial period is deemed a success so that the farm can house 200 cows producing 5,000 kilograms of milk a day.
Raw milk will be dispensed to consumers through 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 that money can buy and is said to be an enormous asset for the Dutch agricultural sector.
“Realization of the floating farm is an enormous asset for the Dutch agricultural sector as a whole,” said Carel de Vries, project initiator on behalf of the Courage innovation organization.
“It’s almost impossible to bring cows and dairy processing closer to the city residents. Moreover, the latest technology will be tested on the floating farm going forward with the aim of drastically reducing environmental impact.
“We are developing opportunities that will benefit the entire dairy farming sector throughout the country in the fields of animal welfare, manure processing and circularity. We are thankful for the help we have had to date from all partners involved.”
Source: Western Producer