On a recent day, Dutch businesswoman Minke van Wingerden looked on as one of her 32 cows stops at an automated milking station on an unusual farm. The milking station is set up on a raised structure above a waterway in the port of Rotterdam.
Van Wingerden is one of the developers of what is known as the Floating Farm. They are testing whether dairy farming is possible in the center of one of the world’s most industrial areas. Rotterdam is far from the green fields of traditional Dutch farms.
Van Wingerden told The Associated Press the idea for the Floating Farm dates back to 2012.
At that time, she said, her partner Peter was involved in a project in New York City. A powerful storm known as Hurricane Sandy hit the New York area, causing severe flooding. “After two days, there was no fresh food” to be found in stores, she recalled.
“So then we realized ‘why not produce fresh food, healthy food on the water close to the city' and that’s where the idea came up,” she added.
The cows on the Floating Farm can rest on the upper level of the structure or go to a feeding station for a mix of hay and grass.
Milk and waste treatment centers are on the platform’s lower level. That area also has a store and an entrance for visitors. A nearby grassy area gives the animals a chance to be on dry land.
The top of the structure is used to collect rainwater. Power for the farm comes from panels floating nearby. The panels create electricity from sunlight.
Van Wingerden noted, “The amount of arable land is decreasing and the world population is growing so how can we produce enough healthy food in the future? Seventy percent of the world is water, so why not use the water to produce fresh healthy food near to the consumers?”
The Floating Farm has the latest in dairy technology. It has an automated feeding system, robots that remove the cows’ waste, and self-serve cleaning areas.
There is even a software application program to follow cows. Farmer Albert Boerson uses the app to watch his animals.
The farm already has a device to separate dry cow waste material from liquid waste. The dry part is used as bedding for the cows and the liquid is turned into a fertilizer.
Workers on the floating platform sell some bottles of milk to visitors. The rest is purified and turned into milk or yogurt. It is sold to people who live nearby.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Toby Sterling reported this story for the Reuters news agency. Jonathan Evans adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
automated – adj. operated by a self-acting machine or self-regulating device
panel– n. a flat surface where the controls of a vehicle, machine, etc., are located
arable – adj. fit for or cultivated by plowing : suitable for producing crops
consumer – n. a person who buys goods and services
dairy – n. milk from a cow or other domestic animal; food such as ice cream, cheese, or yogurt made primarily of or from milk
bottle– n. a glass or plastic container that has a narrow neck and usually has no handle
yogurt – n. a thick soft food that is made of milk soured by the addition of bacteria and that is often flavored and sweetened