To make more room for livestock, the Dutch will moove cows to a floating farm

In the next three decades, the global population is expected to grow by more than two billion people. That could be a problem. We already fail to feed the roughly seven and a half billion people currently living on the planet, so we’ll need to initiate entirely new agricultural systems to accommodate more.

Soon, a Dutch company will begin testing a system they think could help provide locally grown food to coastal communities: a floating farm. For centuries, the Netherlands, one of the most densely populated nations in the world, has staved off encroaching seawater through innovative engineering techniques, while making use of limited land to feed its citizens. The floating farm idea combines these two Dutch specialties — maritime engineering and agriculture.

The first floating farm will focus on dairy cows, in particular a Dutch breed called Meuse-Rhine-Issel, but Beladon, the group behind the project, hope to expand to include crops and other livestock. Intriguing as the concept may be, it’s not clear that it’s environmentally beneficial, lucrative, or scalable.

We spoke with Minke van Wingerden, co-owner of Beladon. She described a partially automated operation, where robots do the milking as cows are treated to a “bougie” experience. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Minke van Wingerden: My husband came up with the idea. Seven years ago he started Beladon, a company that designs floating structures. He was busy with a project in New York in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy hit and Manhattan was flooded. He realized it’s important to produce fresh foods nearby cities because after two days shelves in the shops were empty. Read full article.