Elsie’s Going On A Cruise

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Elsie’s Going On A Cruise

At Echo Environmental, we’re all about new ideas and technology to make the planet better. But we’re still not udderly convinced this innovation will pass the smell test.

The Dutch city of Rotterdam is building the world’s first floating dairy farm, with the first 40 cows scheduled to board before the end of the year. Proponents say rising seas, growing populations, lack of farmland and the benefits of producing food near consumers are all reasons to think out of the barn and into the harbor.

Before you start concocting bad puns (“I wouldn’t want to moove next door”), consider the details:

  • Most of the cows’ diet will be gathered nearby, including restaurant leftovers, grain discarded by breweries and grass clippings.
  • Cow urine will fertilize crops grown onboard, while the other droppings will be collected for fertilizer or to produce energy.
  • An onboard dairy will process milk and make cheese and yogurt.
  • A gangplank will offer cows the chance to hike and graze on the shore.

Minke van Wingerden, a Dutch property developer, said she and her husband Peter came up with the idea after seeing how difficult it was to get fresh food into New York City after the devastating storm Sandy.

“So why not look at opportunities at fresh food in or near the city?” she said. “Then you look at the world map, most cities are situated in the water, so why not use the water?”

She said research has shown that cows don’t get seasick. Also, she noted, the bovine pioneers “will have a beautiful view of the port of Rotterdam.”

Backers of the $3 million project believe the floating farm will be a tourist attraction in the short term, and a prototype for sustainable cities in the long term. But they also acknowledged they had to overcome hesitations about whether nearby residents will want to open their windows with a dairy farm in the neighborhood.

Carel De Vries, whose agricultural innovation organization Courage is supporting the project, acknowledges the skeptics.

“A third of people are really enthusiastic,” he said. “A third have big eyes, and the other third think we are crazy. That’s how it goes with innovations.”