Yes, it can! Today the first of the vegetables were harvested and tasted at the Wageningen University & Research Applied (WUR) Arable and Vegetable Research test location in Lelystad, the Netherlands. In mid-May the small-scale test island was launched by Stichting Drijvende Eilanden (The floating islands foundation) in partnership with the Wageningen University & Research Science Shop.
It is predicted that the growing world population, soil exhaustion and climate change will result in a shortage of 22 million km² of arable land by 2050. Yet, 70% of the Earth's surface is water and it is here that we need to look for new opportunities and solutions.
When to grow on floating islands
In large cities such as Singapore where tomatoes are exorbitantly expensive it provides relief for vegetable farming, while in developing countries such as Bangladesh, where floods are a serious problem faced by agriculture, floating farms could provide a sustainable solution.
A floating island combined with restaurants or cafes may also prove interesting in the Netherlands for an added touch of experience.
But it can also be combined with the care and health care sector. Stichting Drijvende Eilanden together with Brownies & Downies, a restaurant that employs people with learning disabilities, is planning to start a floating island next to a restaurant.
The importance of practical research
This is simply a test on a small scale and it is important to conduct this same test on a larger scale. We still need to answer questions such as the effect of high factor winds and wave action on open water on floating farms, while also considering any additional dangers to crops on water.
‘Shortly before the harvest, a part of the island appeared to have been eaten by ducks. So, do we need to use something like duck deterrents in the future?’ asks project researcher Marcel Vijn
The project will be finalised on 10 November and the new plans will be presented. This is where the growing of food, experience of food, care and science come together According to Sören Knittel, industrial designer of the island, Nexus Product Design, ‘It is this very combination that makes this project so exciting.’