The cucumber Saudis: how the Dutch got too good at farming
- A small, fertiliser-rich country sniffs the limits of its old model
Visitors to dairy farms are always well advised to watch their step. Those inspecting the three dozen milking cows kept by Minke van Wingerden and her team have more to fear than landing in manure: the entire farm is set up on a floating platform, docked a 20-minute cycle ride away from Rotterdam’s central railway station. One wrong step and you will wind up spluttering in the Nieuwe Maas river—as a couple of the cows have discovered (firemen fished them out of the harbour). Forget vistas of the placid Frisian countryside: these animals spend their days overlooking tankers and trucks unloading wares at Europe’s biggest port. Throughout the day schijt-scooping robots scour the milking area, keeping it clean. On two lower floors of the barge, the cows’ output is variously turned either into cheese or fertiliser.