A PARTY of both rural and youth leaders from Scotland have been the first visitors to experience Rotterdam’s floating dairy in action, during a recent learning journey to the Netherlands.

As the first visitors to the farm, delegates tasted one of the first batches of bottled milk from the new dairy, in the company of its CEO Peter Van Wingerden.

The study tour schedule also included visits to a carbon neutral chicken farm and PigMe, a business where pigs are farmed in fields, forests and meadows over 10 locations close to the consumer, with dedicated caretakers.

Scottish dairy farmer, graduate of the Scottish Enterprise Rural Leadership Programme and chair of NFU Scotland's Next Generation group, Colin Ferguson, came away from the trip inspired with a new appreciation for Dutch innovation and collaboration in bridging the urban/rural divide.

“The floating day was one example of how innovation was not only adding value but also showing the value of food production," said Mr Ferguson. "The project was very much a proof of concept rather than a wholly commercial enterprise but it was clear that it had created positive discussion and excitement for dairy farming within the city. It wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine something similar in any of our cities within the UK.”

Colin added: “It’s important that farmers see first-hand how innovation can transform and challenge traditional farming practices and engage urban consumers in a meaningful and transparent way. For example, one of the farms we visited, Kipster, has a 24hr viewing room of their chickens which is a new way of thinking to educate the public. The consumer will always purchase cheap food – it is our responsibility as farmers to share our stories and add the value to our supply chain.”

The urban/rural learning journey was a collaboration between Scottish Enterprise, Rural Youth Project, Jane Craigie Marketing, and Rural Youth Project vlogger and tour guide Dirk-Jan Kloet, with an aim to challenge delegates to 'think different' on the urban/rural divide.

Head of Rural at Scottish Enterprise, Julian Pace, said that the collaboration between Scottish Enterprise and the Rural Youth Project was a real opportunity to learn about Dutch innovation and, more importantly, from each other.

“An important part of the Scottish Enterprise Rural Leadership Programme is the chance to network with other like-minded people – including the five Rural Youth Project delegates on this trip offered a new perspective and a refreshing insight into how they see their communities.

“The Rural Youth Project survey found that only 13% of young people felt they had a say in their community and I believe the relationships formed on this trip will help these future leaders find their voice with mentoring support from some of the Rural Leadership alumni," he said.

Co-convener of the trip, Jane Craigie, said: “The Dutch have a real aptitude for harnessing the power of storytelling to connect with consumers and they’re constantly pushing boundaries when it comes to agriculture and business. So many fundamentals of what the Dutch are doing are within reach of young people looking to build business or enterprise in rural communities.

“Rotterdam’s floating dairy is just one example of how Dutch innovation is challenging contemporary ideals. Delegates had the opportunity to experience multiple businesses who 'think different' and harness their narrative to engage consumers, with PigMe a great example of a location agnostic business."

On the trip were Rural Youth Project delegates, supported by Royal Highland Agriculture Society of Scotland, with flights funded by Scottish Rural Network: Rebecka Bergh, Perth; Alana Black, Aberdeenshire; Elizabeth Kelso, Ayrshire; Lucy Stewart, Angus; and Calum Tyler, Lewis.

Scottish Enterprise Rural Leaders attending were: Graham Barr, Easter Bavelaw Farm; David Bell, Fairfield Farms; Anna Black, Lindores; Hugh Black, J and R Black; Donald Boyd, Huntly and District Development Trust; Rory Christie, Dourie Farming; Colin Ferguson, Knockann Farm; Sheena Horner, Galloway Chillies; Will Middlemass, Markle Mains; Jeremy Parker, NFU Mutual; Kevin Patrick, Lantra; Craig Peddie, Cornceres Generating; Aylett Roan, Roan’s Dairy; and Rosemary Scrimgeour, Building Workshop.