Agriculture, husbandry, education, entrepreneurship, and art come together in a project that recently had its premiere: the pig tractor. It is a project that provides new scenarios for sustainable food production and that- with its unusual appearance – is a great conversation starter. The pig tractor starts its journey in Zaltbommel and continues it after the summer in Venlo. The launch of this unique initiative took place on Tuesday 7 May in Zaltbommel.
In 2018, the Museum of Bommel van Dam together with the Circular Art Lab Limburg started to bridge the gap between art and sustainability issues. Four major challenges of our time have been presented to the creative sector in the form of an open call. In response to the challenge of how agriculture and nature can better co-operate within our landscape, Sjef Meijman came up with the idea of a Pig Tractor. This idea has been embraced by the partners involved including LLTB, HAS, Stichting het Limburgs Landschap and Natuur en Milieufederatie Limburg Sjef Meijman got offered the opportunity to further develop it to a prototype level. On behalf of HAS, professor ‘’Innovative Entrepreneurship For Rural Development’’ Daan Groot, also the director of project office Nature^Squared, is the contact person for this project.
Sjef Meijman (1978) is an artist and a pig farmer, or as he calls himself: a visual farmer. His pig tractor is a mobile pig shed with a spout area in which a few pigs live. Pigs are used for precision rooting. Only the piece of land that they need to cultivate is accessible by the tractor. The tractor continues only after the pigs have eaten all plants or crop residues on a specific spot. Traveling around the region, the Pig Tractor can show the pig’s potential in numerous places: in allotments and coniferous forests, in fields, and in nature reserves. The Pig Tractor travels throughout the year there where there is a supply of food and demand for tillage.
Buitengewone Varkens (Extraordinary Pigs) implements the project’s sustainable agricultural system. They have pigs at several locations in the Netherlands and run various pilots related to sustainable agricultural systems. With the introduction of the Pig Tractor, the pig proves, just like a hundred years ago, that it is still essentially a pig bank. It eats what we no longer need and converts this into meat. Moreover, the pig roots around in the earth and immediately fertilizes the soil. This is why the pig has an important role to play in the sustainable agricultural system. The Pig Tractor shows that agriculture and husbandry can go together and displays new scenarios for supported food production.
Launch in Zaltbommel
The garden of the Bommelsbakhuijs is a beautiful turf in the east of Zaltbommel. The restaurant uses this garden to become self-sufficient. The menu consists of livestock reared and crops grown in their own garden. With the help of the Pig Tractor, the pig is used to root around in the earth and fertilize the soil. After tilling, the crops are sown and consequently processed in the restaurant. The crop residues are then eaten by the pigs and the cycle starts again. Students of the HAS University of Applied Sciences in Den Bosch monitor the functioning of the Pig Tractor and use the results as part of a larger research into the possibilities for mobile husbandry. The mobile husbandry is an initiative of the Innovative Entrepreneurship for Rural Development research group of the HAS University of Applied Sciences.
Next up, Venlo
In September, the Pig Tractor travels to Venlo where it will travel from petting zoo Hagerhof through the surrounding countryside. Students of the HAS University of Applied Sciences in Venlo are also involved in the second phase of the project. Their goal is to use the Pig Tractor to start a dialogue around sustainable food production. The striking shape and performative power of the installation help to make the farmer and consumer aware of the opportunities that small-scale, sustainable pig farming provides.
The pilot with the Pig Tractor has been realized through a collaboration between the Museum of Zaltbommel van Dam, HAS locations of Den Bosch and Venlo, Buitengewone Varkens, Bommelsbakhuijs and petting zoo Hagerhof.