September 20, 2021

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In Rotterdam, cows float on water to protect the climate

Rotterdam, Netherlands | In the middle of the cranes and container ships in the port of Rotterdam, a surreal scene appears: a herd of cows quietly roaming a few meters above the water on a “world-unique” floating farm.

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The three-story glass and steel floor represents the “future of livestock” in the Netherlands, a small area prone to rising sea levels and densely populated, agricultural land becoming a rare commodity.

The farm is built on three floors: the cowshed above, the cottage cheese, the curd and butter in the middle, and above the water, the mature area of ​​the cheese.

“The world is under pressure,” says Minkey von Wingerton, 60, with her husband Peter, “the world’s first floating farm”.

“We want the farm to be sustainable and as self-sufficient as possible,” he told AFP.

The shed and 40 cows are completely different from the larger vessels and smoke coming from the chimneys in Europe’s largest port, where the Netherlands is responsible for 13.5% of carbon emissions.

Floating Farm, in operation since 2019, Peter and Minkey wanted to “bring the countryside to the city” and promote consumer awareness to create farm space.

Thanks to intensive animal husbandry and countless large greenhouses, the Dutch are no strangers to advanced agricultural technologies, the second largest exporter of agricultural products in the world after the United States.

But today, the kingdom pays the price.

Recycled compost

Agriculture and especially dairy emissions are a real problem in the Netherlands, with one of the largest individual pollutants in Europe. The expression of the cow is methane gas which promotes the greenhouse effect.

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And with less than a third of the land area below sea level, the country is particularly vulnerable to global warming.

But Minge van Wingerton thinks he can keep his feet dry.

“We’re in the water, so the farm is moving in line with the waves. We’re going up and down 2 meters. So if there’s a flood, we can continue to produce,” he observes.

His red and white cows feed on the Dutch-German breed of muse-rin-ysel (MRO), especially the rest of the food given on the farm, i.e. grapes from the food bank, grain residues from the nearby bar and grass and local football clubs from the golf courses, Fenord Rotterdam. .

Their manure is converted into particles for the garden, the urine is purified and converted into drinking water for the cows, surrounded by tens of thousands of solar panels to generate the electricity needed to run the farm.

The cattle are robbed by the robot and the cheese, yoghurt, butter and pellets are sold at the roadside shop, along with food from local manufacturers.

The farm delivers its produce to restaurants in the city using electric vans.

“Milk on the Nerves”

“I immediately won by this idea,” says Bram Den Propper, pouring milk into bottles behind the counter in the store.

“It’s not blood in my veins, it’s milk,” joked the 67-year-old retiree, one of the company’s 40 volunteers.

The idea of ​​a floating farm “makes farming more enjoyable, enjoyable and attractive,” says Minkey van Wingerton.

When she and her husband knocked on the port administration door with the idea of ​​building a farm on the water, they were first “taken for granted.”

But the bet seems to have won: by the end of 2021 the farm will be profitable and ready to pay the price to customers. The price of a liter of milk is 1.80 euros, compared to the average euro for a brick bought in a supermarket.

The “pioneers” pair wants to build a floating market garden farm next to the first place and also plan to export overseas: a project is already underway in Singapore.

Their ground vibrates slightly to the movement of the waves, but the cows are not available to the sea tigers, says Minkey van Wingerton.

“It’s like you’re on a ship,” he says.

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