About 70% of the earth’s surface consists of water and with land becoming scarce, that is the place to innovate. Innovation platform Kip van Oranje and Floating Farms is in the middle of realising a dream, the Floating Egg Farm, in the harbour of the city of Rotterdam. The pilot project will explore new interactions between farm and city, benefiting both.
Large cranes unload a bulk carrier while a tug boat pushes an empty barge to its new destination. The inner city harbour of Rotterdam is still in full swing, but with ships increasing in size the port operations are moving to a new facility. The docklands will be converted to residential areas and commercial space. The actual harbour however awaits another purpose, farming.
A truly mind-blowing operation, which will continuously evolve with input from the project partners, the city and the consumers.” – Albert Hoekerswever
Floating dairy farm
2 years ago the company Floating Farm started to build a concrete 3 deck barge for a dairy farm, which is now in full operation. About 35 dairy cows reside on the top deck with a fantastic view over the harbour. On the lower decks feed is mixed, manure is treated and milk is processed to sellable end products. One could say that realising a floating farm is over complicating things, but the opposite is true. Owner Minke van Wingerden: “On the water there is still space to innovate, it helps us to be close to our consumers and it makes our operation climate adaptive. Our farm is extremely stabilised, it only moves up and down 2 meters with the tide, but in other parts of the world it could be anchored in different ways so it can survive flooding or storms.”
The floating dairy farm is already in full operation in the middle of the Rotterdam harbor.
The whole operation is high tech and low impact. The farm is largely self sufficient in energy and water usage. The city is not only consuming the dairy products, it also supplies a large part of the feed ingredients as a return. Local industry by products are used as input in the cows feed rations. Van Wingerden explains: “We want to be an integral part of the city, fully connected with our consumers, both private households and hospitality professionals, and with our suppliers.”
An artist impression gives some insights into the plans of Floating Farms Holding. In the far background the existing dairy farm, in the middle the egg farm barge and in the front the vertical vegetable farm. Photo: Floating Farm Holding
Next phase: Floating egg farm
The floating dairy farm experiences paved the way for the next phase of the floating farm concept, a floating egg farm. The owners of the Floating Farm Peter and Minke van Wingerden teamed up with innovation platform Kip van Oranje founders Albert Hoekerswever and Noud Janssen and forged plans for a layer farm on a second barge next to the dairy operation. The Kip van Oranje focus project encompasses a barge for 7,000 layers in an aviary system with a range area on the top deck and egg packing and processing equipment on the lower deck. Janssen: “The whole design will be as transparent as possible, while being closed off to the outside to mitigate the risk of avian influenza coming from wild birds that are abundant in harbour areas.” Van Wingerden adds: “Transparency is key, as we are open and accessible for the public and will sell part of our products directly from the farm. Nowadays many consumers don’t have a clue anymore where their food comes from, one of our goals of our farms is to restore this farm to consumer connection.”
Floating Farm owner Minke van Wingerden (r) and Kip van Oranje initiator Noud Janssen. Photo: Fabian Brockotter
High tech, high touch
Although relatively small scale, the floating egg farm will be fully loaded with the latest technology. Janssen: “In our over developed society some people are longing back to nostalgic farming practices, but we are not bringing back nostalgia. The floating egg farm will be close to the consumer, but high tech at the same time.” Kip van Oranje brings together top notch industry players to equip the farm. Hoekerswever explains: “We have created a community of preferred suppliers, all experienced in installing equipment to the biggest industry players in the world. For this project they have to think out of the box, making things happen on a smaller, far more innovative scale.”
According to the project lead the industry players are:
- Vencomatic signed in for the aviary system
- Prinzen for egg packing
- Hotraco Agri supplies the control units
- Smits Agro will build the on ship feed plant
- Moba is on board for egg breaking and processing
- Stalmeesters will do emission control
Solar panels make the floating farm energy independent. Photo: Fabian Brockotter
The floating egg farm will be close to the consumer, but high tech at the same time.” – Noud Janssen
Janssen: “Because the farm is situated in a future residential area, we aim for a zero emission concept. Dust and ammonia will be filtered out the outgoing air and filter performance will be monitored end of pipe. The farm wants to be 100% transparent on its emissions.”
The floating egg farm has to function as a normal poultry operation, but at the same time it will be a test-bed of innovative systems. “Everything from emission control, on site feed manufacturing with inclusion of city food waste streams to the production of semi-finished egg products, for example – egg burgers, has to be designed and implemented in the confinements of the floating building. Our partners rise to the challenge, for one to make this project a reality, but also with the promise that many of the innovations have the potential to be implemented in traditional farms in the future.”
Sustainable Livestock Farming
Achieving sustainability goals in livestock farming, needs to be a collaborative effort between policymakers, farmers and consumers.
Supply chain innovation
The floating egg farm will be more than just a fancy barn concept, it will have its own business model too. Janssen: “In the traditional setting, the farmer is just one link in a long supply chain and most of the time the most vulnerable link too. The floating farm concept encompasses a supply chain innovation with more links on farm, hence a shorter chain. We produce eggs, package them, break part of them and further process the egg products. Also there will be direct sales from farm to consumers and from the farm to restaurant chains and local shops. Marketed as something special, much of the margin normally made by others, will stay on farm.” Van Wingerden continues: “And it will be a 2-way street, as the floating farm can offer a service too. For many food producing companies, getting rid of food waste comes at a cost. Those food wastes will be our feed ingredients, sustainable and circular.” According to the owner, getting more involved in the supply chain at both ends, already resulted in a solid business case for the dairy farm.
From now onwards, the floating egg farm concept will further materialise into an actual poultry operation. Hoekerswever: “A truly mind-blowing operation, which will continuously evolve with input from the project partners, the city and the consumers. It will serve as an inspiration for the traditional poultry industry and it will offer a local food production solution for densely populated areas. Maybe in the current form, or adapted to local circumstances, everything is possible.” Owner Van Wingerden is already contemplating the next step in floating farm designs. After dairy and poultry, a vertical vegetable farm is already on the drawing board. With chicken and cow manure as fertiliser and fuel of course.
Kip van Oranje
The Floating Egg Farm is a focus project of Kip van Oranje, together with the Floating
Farm. Kip van Oranje is an independent supply chain innovation platform, which was created by former poultry farmer and farmers union representative
Noud Janssen and matchmaker Albert Hoekerswever. It focusses on safe food production, animal health and welfare and sustainable circular poultry production.
Within a project it searches for the best partners possible, without any bias. Hoekerswever: “We want the best fit and will not exclude anyone. Once committed, our partners are an integral part of the end solution. Everyone’s idea, product or innovation adds a piece of the puzzle, resulting in the end product, a novel and fully connected innovative farm concept with a sustainable fair share business model.” Kip van Oranje and Floating Farm will introduce their floating egg farm to the poultry sector during VIV MEA.