Dutch researchers are studying the sustainability of growing vegetables on floating agriculture islands as a way of combating a global lack of farmland.
The first tomato and lettuce crops were harvested and tasted recently at the test site of Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in Lelystad.
Very small volumes have been grown on the floating island designed by Nexus Product Design.
As so much of the Earth’s surface consists of water, there are abundant opportunities to grow produce sustainability, according to Floating Islands Foundation which has asked Wageningen to help examine the possibilities.
By exploring the cultivation capabilities for big cities like Singapore where tomatoes are extremely expensive or developing countries like Bangladesh where flooding is a major problem in agriculture, the floating islands could prove to be a feasible and sustainable solution, says the university.
Researchers and students are exploring what food can be grown, whether it can be grown in estuarine water and saltwater, how it grows with soil, substrate, water and using fertilisers, as well as what food would be desirable for producers and consumers.
Wageningen also says that the concept of growing and eating food from a floating island would interest health-conscious consumers in countries like the Netherlands as diners are continually looking for new extraordinary food experiences.
This is a small trial which needs to be upscaled, adds researcher Marcel Vijn, as there are many unanswered questions concerning winds, waves, open water and other potential dangers for crops.
The Wageningen project is due for completion in mid-November.