An offshore dairy farm will be the first of its kind in the world, when it opens later this year in the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Europe’s largest port. The Dutch property company, Beladon, is launching this ‘floating farm’ to produce more food and sustainability for the country as a whole.
Beladon’s farm will be on three levels and anchored to the ocean floor. It is hoped that when it opens at the end of 2018, it will be able to produce approximately 800 litres of milk a day. The addition of chickens and crops may follow. The question is whether such farms will ever be able to produce enough to feed the world’s growing urban populations?
A floating farm may seem a little unusual but reducing the distance that food travels before it gets into our homes makes good environmental sense and reduces pollution.
If worldwide population grows to 9.8 billion by 2050, as forecast, then 70% of people will be living in cities. The real demand is likely to be in the rapidly growing populations of Asia and Africa. With urban indoor farms on the rise to meet the growing need, other more efficient means of meeting supply and demand are welcomed, hence the start up of new offshore farms.
Engineer, Peter van Wingerden at Beladon, came up with the idea of ‘transfarming’ nearly six years ago, when he was in New York working on a floating housing project built on the Hudson River. Hurricane Sandy hit during his visit, causing major disruption to transport networks and stopping the delivery of fresh food produce for days. On seeing the destruction caused by the hurricane, Mr van Wingerden said he was: “struck by the need for food to be produced as near as possible to consumers, so the idea came up to produce fresh food in a climate-adaptive way on the water.”
He believes this concept will be resilient against extreme weather such as hurricanes or natural disasters.
“With increasing demand for healthy food, fast-growing urbanisation and climate change, we can’t rely on the food production systems of the past any more,” he said.
In 2012, Mr van Wingerden and his team started work on designing and planning a prototype. Since then the farm has steadily taken shape, and its floating platform has already been moved by barge from North Holland to Rotterdam in preparation for the launch.
Environmentally friendly plan
Engineer Peter’s wife and business partner, Minke van Wingerden, says that the farm will begin with 40 cows before larger operations start, with the aim being to reuse and recycle as much as they can.
“At least 80% of what our cows eat will be waste products from Rotterdam’s food industry,” says Albert Boersen, the farm’s general manager.
Any ‘green waste’ will be used as food for the farm animals. This could be leftovers from cafes, restaurants, supermarkets or shops, or even grains from local breweries, wheat mills and grass cuttings. All of these will be collected and delivered in electric trucks that will be provided by a local green waste company.
Duckweed will be grown as an animal feed too. It is a fast-growing plant which is high in protein and can be nurtured with cow urine. An installation of four or five vertical platforms will grow the duckweed under special LED lights.
By the end of 2018, the world’s first floating farm should be in action and environmentally friendly to boot!
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