The Floating Milk Farm
With a world population predicted to rise to 9.8billion by 2050, and an increasing move towards living in cities, getting fresh produce from the countryside to the consumer is an increasing challenge we face every day at Kilco as we work with Kersia to invent a food safe world. Add in the impacts of climate change on the available land and transport infrastructure, and you have the potential for significant shortages.
Engineer, Peter van Wingerden, saw this for himself a few years ago, when he was in New York as hurricane Sandy struck. It did not take long for local shops to run short of supplies leaving customers struggling to find fresh foods. He was working on a floating housing project on the Hudson at the time, and it hit him that the same principles could be applied to farms.
A floating farm
Fast forward seven years and the first 32 Meuse-Rhine-Issel cows have arrived at the world’s first floating farm in Merwehaven in the Port of Rotterdam. Designed by Peter and his wife, Minke, the farm is a first for the dairy industry, and supplies 800litres of milk a day for local Lidl supermarkets in the city.
"Seeing the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy I was struck by the need for food to be produced as near as possible to consumers," says the designer. "With increasing demand for healthy food, fast-growing urbanisation and climate change, we can't rely on the food production systems of the past anymore."
The floating farm is fully automated, with robotic milking machines that allow cows to be milked when they want. It also has a slurry robot to immediately clear away manure, which is used for fertiliser, along with the cow’s urine, which is collected in sealed tanks to preserve the ammonia content. The cows are free to leave the floating farm whenever tides permit, using a bridge to access an adjacent pasture.
Keen to be as environmentally friendly as possible, the farm produces all its own electricity from a milk bottle shaped floating array of solar panels next to the deck, and it collects and treats rain to provide drinking water for the cows. They are even fed sustainably, with grass from local parks and golf courses, supplemented by food waste and brewers’ grains. What’s more, by cutting the food miles from farm to consumer, the floating farm is also helping to reduce emissions.
The first of many?
As the first of its kind, the project is drawing considerable attention, and it has been constructed to make it as accessible as possible with clear sides and even an education centre integrated into the structure. But this is more than just a novelty experiment; it could be the future of farming for major cities.
"The available area of fertile agricultural land does not grow along with the world population," say the designers. "Climate change shows that there is increasingly heavy rainfall and flooding of cities and farmland, so we have to look at a climate adaptive system to continue feeding our cities."
The team have already got plans for a floating chicken farm and a floating greenhouse in Rotterdam, as well as ambitious plans to roll out the floating farm concept around the world to help keep over-populated cities supplied with fresh food and dairy produce, whatever the climate has in store.
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