There’s a new farm in one of Europe’s largest and busiest ports. Not just in the area; it’s literally floating in the port of Rotterdam. This is the world’s first floating farm, though hopefully not the last.
The idea came to CEO and founder Peter van Wingerden while he was in New York City during Hurricane Sandy. After watching largely imported produce disappear from city markets’ shelves within days of the flooding, he realized the world of tomorrow would need to produce food within arms’ reach of consumers—and that it would need to float.
His solution for the future is now realized in the simply named “Floating Farm,” a three-story platform in the Merwehaven Harbor that’s home to 35 cows producing 700 liters of milk every day.
The farm is unparalleled in its sustainability. Rainwater is collected from the roof and purified for the cows to drink. Half the farm’s energy comes from 50 solar panels floating beside it in the shape of a milk bottle. On the farm’s top level, cows graze from a mixture of hay and grass clippings from area parks and golf courses (breweries donate discarded beer broth as well). Their manure is converted into fertilizer that encourages the regrowth of the very fields from which they’ll later eat.
Working with such a view, staff don’t have much to complain about. Most of them are robots anyway: The farm employs AI to milk, feed, and clean up after the cows. Only two humans are needed to operate the farm.
The second floor of the farm is used to process the cows’ milk into either pasteurized milk or yogurt. The hyper-local products are sold on-site for tour groups and students and are available in grocery stores throughout the city.
While most of the cows found their sea legs after their first few weeks in the harbor, they have access by bridge to a fenced riverside pasture. Living in the future must surely make them homesick.