The world’s first floating dairy farm has opened its doors to a herd of Montbeliarde cattle as part of a €2.3million (£1.9m) project developers say will transform the way food is produced globally.
The three-tiered dairy, located in a port in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, aims to make dairy farming more sustainable by cutting waste and reducing the distance milk has to travel to consumers.
The 32-head herd is being grazed on the rooftop – or ‘cow garden’ – of a 20x20 metre concrete platform. They also have access to dockside pasture which they can reach via a bridge.
Milking is done by a robot, while robotic scrapers collect waste which is then dried inside the dairy’s own recycling centre and reused as bedding.
Additional feed is being broughtin from nearby breweries and vegetable packers, helping to reduce the amount of waste the city produces.
While the dairy had been scheduled to open last autumn, engineering challenges meant the cows finally arrived to their new home this week. The first bottles of milk are due to reach consumers by the weekend.
Minke van Wingerden, of property developer Beladon, the company behind the project, said: “This is an elaborate project, so we have run into a few unexpected issues.
"We had to redesign and reconstruct the ramp because the tide changes the water height by 2m, so the movement of the platform was damaging the shore.
“Luckily we got it sorted and the cows got on board without any problems. They were very inquisitive about their new surroundings and they seem very happy.
“They have lots of space and we believe we have got the welfare 100 per cent right.”
Once the dairy is up to its full 40-head capacity it will produce and process about 800 litres of milk a day, with bottles being sold in Lidl stores across the city, as well as to local hotels and restaurants via a wholesaler.
Raw and pasteurised milk and yoghurts will also be sold from the dairy shop on the dock, with bottles priced at €1.50 (£1.30) for 750ml and €1 (87p) for 250ml.
“We are very happy that our retail partners understand the story we are trying tell,” Mrs van Wingerden added.
“We are positive we can show that this is possible not just in Rotterdam, but in cities around the world.”