Rotterdam is getting world's first floating urban farm

This winter, the world's first floating city farm will be commissioned in the Merwe-Vierhaven (M4H). The Floating Farm will produce fresh dairy products close to the consumer. They do so in a climate resistant, self-sustaining, circular, and animal friendly way, and with the latest technology.

'Stock farming on the water forces you to look for innovative technical solutions', says Minke van Wingerden van Beladons, one of the initiators. 'You're off the grid, which means not connected to basic services such as electricity. Besides the farm, we place 120 floating solar panels in a milk bottle shape on the water for our electricity.' Floating Farm will stock 40 cows, capable of delivering 800 litres of milk per day. Using the raw milk, and in an animal-friendly and sustainable way, they will produce milk and yogurt to be sold to consumers. The latest technology is used, there are for instance automatic cleaning, milking and feeding systems. The farm on the water will be a transparent construction work in three layers, where visitors can see the cows and be introduced to all processes on the farm, such as making the dairy products, recycling of manure, water treatment and so on.

Living lab

Production and sales on the floating city farm are circular and close to the Rotterdammers. Thus, there are hardly any waste streams and the logistics chain is short. Van Wingerden: 'Feed for the cows consists mostly of waste streams from the region. We use waste products such as bran from the mill in Schiedam, brewer's grain from the city breweries, waste products from a potato factory, and grass from golf courses, for example. We recycle our cow manure. It is returned to the region, for example, to sports fields, golf courses or private individuals. We collect rainwater and purify this for use on the farm. And we are also circular internally: we will be using processed manure for the bedding of the cows stabling. We see ourselves as a 'living lab', we are always looking for new opportunities and innovations. There are already plans to expand with a poultry house and floating greenhouse.' If it were up to the initiators, the Merwe-Vierhaven would be getting a full food strip.

Building on water

Due to the growth in population, land is becoming increasingly scarce. People will move more and more to the city. In Europe, 90 percent of the population will soon be living in cities, these people need healthy food every day. By producing in the city, the logistics chain is shortened, and that prevents pollution.  At the same time, brought on by climate change, we see increasingly severe rainfall and flooding of cities and agricultural land. To be climate-proof, we need to look at a climate adaptive system to keep feeding the city. Building on the water is one of the solutions. 'Mother earth only has so much land, 70 percent of the Earth's surface is water', "says Van Wingerden. 'Many large cities are located in delta areas with a strategic location on the waterfront and waterways stretching deep into the heart of the city. So why not look at opportunities on the water.'

Floating farm

Floating Farm is the initiative of Beladon, Courage and Uit Je Eigen Stad.  After Hurricane Sandy in New York, the city was without fresh food within two days, because everything is brought in from out of town. Peter van Wingerden Beladon came up with the idea to bring food production closer to the city. Beladon specializes in floating construction. Courage is engaged in innovative agriculture and livestock. The idea for the floating farm was born in mutual conversation. Uit Je Eigen Stad has the knowledge of managing an urban farm.

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