July 22, 2010 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
Ahoy, bok choy! You got it: boat+botanic=boatanic, a floating greenhouse. Take an existing tourist boat, remove the tourists, add seeds and water regularly, make sure the boat gets plenty of sunshine, then harvest the produce. The resulting bounty will be distributed by bike to hungry inner city folks and restaurants in search of fresh food. Boatanic, a Dutch project led by Damian O’Sullivan and supported by the Enviu team and a crew of volunteers, expects to be afloat in Amsterdam by the beginning of 2011, with plans to expand to other cities in Europe and North America.
The floating farm will reach cities accessible by a combination of navigable waterways (canals or rivers), urban areas that also enjoy good climate (not too warm or too hot) and are home to plenty of locavores. Customers can track Boatanic’s produce and location via its website and iPhone app., where they will also be able to place their orders. For direct incidental sales, the iPhone App will indicate the location of the Boatanic at all times–like a chalkboard menu would advertise the pick of the day.
Boatanic will provide a limited supply (500 Kg) of fruit, vegetables and herbs year round which will be complimented with a conventional out-of-town greenhouse in order to boost supply according to demand. The greenhouse will also double as Boatanic’s overnight berth where it charge up its batteries.
The current business model is three-tiered:
1. Retail to customers in close proximity to canals based on subscription
2. Wholesale to restaurants
3. Educational programs to teach schoolchildren about growing food on-board
I’m picturing Boatanic docking at the piers in Manhattan, setting anchor at Le Pont Neuf on the Seine in Paris, and at London’s Tower Bridge…