New dairy farm idea floated in Netherlands

02 Aug, 2018 11:26 AM
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An artist's impression of the floating multi-level 40-cow robotic dairy.
Their manure will be processed into clean water and flow back into the Maas River.
An artist's impression of the floating multi-level 40-cow robotic dairy.

Rotterdam, Netherlands: FERTILE cropping land and prime pastures are no longer a requirement for successful agriculture with an industry ‘transfarmation’ now encouraging production on water and skyscraper roofs.

With land sparse and expensive in the Netherlands ($91,343/ha in 2015), the need to find alternative surfaces for production has hit new levels.

From the end of the year, 40 dairy cows will float in an abandoned port on a multi-level robotic dairy producing fresh dairy products and showcasing a circular way of farming in Rotterdam.

The cattle will have access to a small paddock but will walk onto the Floating Farm and milk themselves, producing about 800 litres of milk each day.

Their manure will be processed into clean water and flow back into the Maas River while the compost remains will be converted into an artificial fertiliser with the potential to use it to grow duckweed fodder.

They will be fed by the city using food waste products from beer brewers, potato processors and bakers.

Once their milk production has ceased the cattle will be slaughtered with their meat sold from the Floating Farm store.

Floating Farm partner representative Minke Van Wingerden said 70 per cent of the world’s surface was water and with an increasing number of land challenges, their concept could be a logical solution for the future of agriculture.

“Our design is very iconic,” she said.

“Why is that? Because we think when you ask a child to draw a farm it will be completely different from this one (now).

“It’s important for us to do it iconic because I think the sector needs to attract young people, not only in our country but in a lot of countries all over the world, there are a lot of problems with succession.

“When you are going to make more use of the modern technology, (it) makes it more interesting.

“For us this one is very, very important to show the world that we can make it happen.”

In the same city horticulture crops have also risen and are now successfully growing on top of an office city skyscraper.

Established in April 2012, the Dakakker rooftop is now home to a large crop of fruit, vegetable, herbs, honey and edible flowers available for harvest from a popular cafe nestled between them.

Having become a neglected and vacant area the new farming concept was initially a way to reinvigorate the area, but has since grown into a trend for other space-saving concepts.

Even some school playgrounds are now located on a roof.

Dakakker volunteer Rob Van Katwijk said special soil mixes with lava stones, clay and organic natural materials had to be used for safety reasons. Planters had been strategically placed on stronger sides of the six-level building too.

“If you used normal soil and it rains, it gets too heavy,” he said.

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