Cows don’t get seasick according to Peter van Wingerden. He should know. Van Wingerden is the designer and owner of the world’s first floating dairy farm. His Rotterdam, Netherlands, boat-turned-milking station is charting a way to produce dairy foods within a busy modern city.
Moored in Merwe Harbor, the ultramodern three-story structure smells of manure, grass, and sweaty cows like any other dairy. The boat’s roof collects rainwater, and a raft of solar panels bobbing alongside produces nearly half the electricity the farm needs. Onboard robots milk cows and scoop manure. The boat-housed bovines enjoy a medley of local produce. Grass comes from a local golf course and the field used by Rotterdam’s top soccer team. It is mixed with grain and potato peelings from a nearby brewer and transported to food troughs via conveyor belts.
Van Wingerden’s design makes life as easy as possible for the cows—floors and poles are rubber instead of metal. A small meadow dotted with wildflowers grows on land next to the pontoon. Once fencing goes up, cows will be free to walk down a ramp and graze in more ordinary surroundings. When the herd reaches its capacity of 40 cows, it should produce 211 gallons of milk each day. Machines will pasteurize the milk and turn some of it into yogurt right on the pontoon.
What resourceful ideas! As the first Creator, God delights in the creativity of the human mind.
Jan Willem van der Schans specializes in urban farming and circular economies (systems that try to reduce waste and use and reuse resources wisely). He believes floating farms could be the future for some foodstuffs in certain parts of the world. But he sees one problem: People may oppose the project because it seems “unnatural.” He cautions, “These are animals that we all like and then we like to see them in a meadow,” not on a high-tech boat.
Van Wingerden understands the objection. Still, he says, “We have to find a different model.” Instead of exporting food, Van Wingerden says, “We should start exporting knowledge and technology.”
The pontoon rises and falls gently in the wakes of nearby ships. The movement doesn’t seem to affect the animals. “The cows are on four feet, so that helps,” Van Wingerden says. “They don’t get seasick at all.”
Van Wingerden believes his farm demonstrates an important new way of producing food—one that is sustainable and close to where most of it is consumed: in cities.