Fresh Food

'Floating Farms' Could Be the Future of Sustainable Dairy

A high-tech facility with cow-milking robots is set to be built in The Netherlands


The brainchild of Dutch property development company Beladon is a small herd of floating cows on a floating dairy farm. 

It is a 900-ton concrete platform that will soon be a multilevel, high-tech home to 40 Meuse Rhine Issel cows. According to the company, animal welfare was a top priority when designing the farm, so the team enlisted the help of a full-time farmer to determine cow-friendly materials, temperatures, feed and major elements of the design. 

According to Atlas Obscura, the farm will feature a “cow garden” on the top floor of the building, boasting artificial leafy trees, lush bushes and sprawling ivy to offer some shade for the cattle. A soft floor will mimic a natural environment and allow urine to soak through (to mitigate ammonia emissions). To allow the cows more freedom in their milking schedule, a team of robots will be on dairy duty, collecting an estimated 800 liters per day. The milk will then be processed on the floor below and sold locally.

“The cows will have a beautiful view of the port of Rotterdam,” the company says. “The farm has three layers … and the cow is standing on top.” However, they point out, a heifer who’s tired of watching the waves can always trot down a ramp to access a small pasture on solid ground.

They feel that getting cows on the water might just be a critical step toward creating more resilient, healthy cities.

Though it’s just one small farm, Peter and Minke van Wingerdens, the developers, see their project as a prototype—a “living lab”—that can be picked up by cities across the globe. “Building on the water is extremely scalable,” Peter says. “And it’s transportable, so you can move it from place to place if necessary.”

 “People do not fear climate change because it’s going in small steps,” Peter says. “We see floods every day on the television screen, and often it’s far away. But we are designing the future in 10, 20 years over here. We feel responsibility for the world after us—for our children, for our grandchildren.”


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