Farm Ireland

Wednesday 16 January 2019

Holy cow! World's first 'floating farm' revealed

A 40-strong herd to be housed on water

An artist's impression of what the floating farm will look like.
An artist's impression of what the floating farm will look like.

Chris McCullough

It has taken a lot of time to get the green light but finally construction of the world's first floating dairy farm is 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 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 of the farm.

The brains behind this bold move are from Courage, the innovation institute of the Dutch agriculture and dairy sector; and 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 expected to cost in the region of €2.6m.

An artist's impression of the floating farm in Holland.
An artist's impression of the floating farm in Holland.

"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.

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"We believe that building on water is the way ahead in a country with a changing climate and ever-increasing urbanisation. Floating farms are 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," he added.

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 air-tight 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.

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