Discover Benelux | Business | Rotterdam’s Floating Farm
quired. Floating farms could give people in developing nations access to fresh, healthy produce. As Van Wingerden points out, “most of the big cities of the world are adjacent to water”. Water covers approximately 71 per cent of the Earth’s surface, so creating floating buildings will allow cities to expand onto the water rather than further into surrounding countryside. The technological challenge of doing so has, until now, been prohibitive. “If you want to live on the water, even in the ocean, if you want to create whole cities, it’s the same as going into space. There’s no electrical cable over there. There’s no sewerage pipe. There’s nothing,” says Van Wingerden earnestly. “It forces you to deep dive into technology solutions. How do you create energy solutions? How do you create clean drinking water? How do you cope with waste? Where do you get your food from?” he asks rhetorically. He has contemplated these issues and come up with answers. His company designed a floating hotel and a concept for the effective treatment of sewerage. The idea of a floating farm stemmed from that. Producing food helps create a sustainable, environmentally friendly solution.
Transparent materials will enable visitors to observe the farm’s processes. The cows will eat fodder grown below deck. It is anticipated the farm will help educate young people about the origins of food. Worryingly, research published in the UK during 2012 revealed 40 per cent of 16 to 23 year olds did not connect cows with milk production. The milk – along with cream, yoghurt and butter – will be sold locally; marketed by the Rotterdam firm Uit Je Eigen Stad. Along with Courage, which provides agricultural expertise, the company is one of the three key partners in the floating farm venture, which will help cut the food supply chain. “One third of all transport in the Netherlands is food related. Tonnes of food are coming in and tonnes of waste are going out. We want to shorten this, be close to consumers and produce the food, the energy and clean water locally,” explains Van Wingerden. Environmentalists, consumers and food producers will be observing developments at the Merwehaven keenly. They will be hoping the floating farm mo(o)ves the world’s food production forward significantly.
“One of our design themes is to make it circular. Cows produce three things: that is milk, manure and urine. This is not waste. This is food for other stuff. It’s raw materials to create energy or nutrients for the plants,” says Van Wingerden. The farm’s 60 cows will produce around 500,000 kilos of milk a year on the 1,200 square-metre top deck. Their weekly output of 14 tonnes of urine will seep through a membrane floor for distillation into clean water and salts that will be fed to plants. A robot will move around cleaning up the solid waste that will be used to create heat and will be converted into nutrients that will be sold for gardening. The rapid separation of the manure and urine will help minimise ‘country aromas’, something that will, undoubtedly, help the locals breath easily. Issue 28 | April 2016 | 53
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