Pig City gets built in Southern China

Pig City
Public Domain MVRDV Pig City via Het Nieuwe Instituut

Vertical farms are buildings built to mass-produce piglets.

Years ago, when vertical farms were all the rage, Dutch architecture firm MVRDV proposed Pig City as a way of meeting demand for pork in a safer, more sustainable way. In this speculative project from 2002 they asked:

Is it possible to compact all the pig production within concentrated farms, therefore avoiding unnecessary transportation and distribution, and thereby reducing the spread of diseases? Can we, through concentrated farming, create the economic critical mass to allow for a communal slaughterhouse, a self-sufficient fertiliser recycler and a central food core, so as to solve the various problems found in the pig-industry?

Now it appears that these questions have been answered by a Chinese company, Guangxi Yangxiang Co, which is building “hog hotels,” vertical farms for pigs. They are not quite as pretty as the MVRDV proposal but they do much the same thing -- 8 storeys of hogs in a building designed for “biosecurity.”

According to Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, who visited it on a trade mission, the Chinese pork producers were obsessed with avoiding disease.

“They talked about it all the time,” Northey says. The placement of sows and boars near the top of the mountain, and have pigs move down the mountain to finishing facilities were one way to improve biosecurity. “They believe the isolation away from other pigs is a huge part of what they were building. This was very biosecurity driven—they wanted to build this facility miles and miles away from other producers, and their employees would be limited in their exposure to pigs on other farms.”

With the buildings themselves, each floor is managed separately, with separated air supplies and no movement of employees between floors during each day. Although they do not explain what they do with all the waste from the pigs right now, according to Reuters,

A waste treatment plant is still under construction on Yaji Mountain to handle the site's manure. After treatment, the liquid will be sprayed on the surrounding forest, and solids sold to nearby farms as organic fertilizer.

By the end of the year, the vertical farm will house “30,000 sows on its 11-hectare site by year's end, producing as many as 840,000 piglets annually.”

These pigs will no doubt be helpful in replacing the $489 million in pork that used to be imported from the USA, but which are now hit with a 25 percent tariff in the trade war with the US. Who knows, the Chinese companies might build an entire Pig City and never buy American pork again. That’s what happens in trade wars; they are not “good and easy to win,” as the President says.

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