On a journey to see examples of innovation in the Netherlands, Scottish farmers were the first visitors to Rotterdam’s floating dairy.

The urban/rural learning trip was a collaboration between Scottish Enterprise, Rural Youth Project, Jane Craigie Marketing, Rural Youth Project vlogger and tour guide Dirk-Jan Kloet.

The aim was to challenge delegates to “think different” on the urban/rural divide.

The fifteen Scottish Enterprise Rural Leaders and five Rural Youth Project delegates sampled one of the first batches of bottled milk produced by the floating dairy.

They also visited a carbon neutral chicken farm and 'PigMe', a business where pigs are farmed and lazed in fields, forests and meadows over ten locations close to the consumer with dedicated caretakers. Co-owner Josse Haarhuis of PigMe gave delegates a tour of one of the location and explained how he used the power of their story and social media to sell to high-end restaurants and consumers.

Scottish dairy farmer Colin Ferguson came away from the trip inspired with a new appreciation for Dutch innovation and collaboration in bridging the urban/rural divide.

He said: “The floating day was one example of how innovation was not only adding value but also showing the value of food production.

"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.”

Smallholder:

The carbon neutral chicken farm

“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 24 hour 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.”

Julian Pace, head of rural at Scottish Enterprise, said: “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 per cent 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."

Jane Craigie, co-director and founder of the Rural Youth Project, 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 experiences multiple business who “think different” and harness their narrative to engage consumers with PigMe a great example of location agnostic business.”