A hydroponic fodder system has the potential to help solve a number of problems faced by farmers almost since the beginning of farming.
- The ability to expand livestock operations with limited land.
- Lower feed cost.
- Improve feed quality.
- Improve animal health, lower vet bills and antibiotic use.
- Better quality meat and dairy.
- Less water usage, higher drought resistance of your operation.
- Smaller environmental footprint.
It sounds great, and it can be, but there are hidden costs to consider before you purchase a fodder system. The FodderTech commercial fodder system is specifically designed to address and reduce each of these costs. When you invest in a fodder system, you plan to use if for a long time. While purchase price is certainly a factor, a bigger consideration is the cost of operation over a one, two, five or 10 year time period. Here are the big ones:
Cost #1: Labor. Many fodder systems require intensive amounts of labor, day-in and day-out. A one-ton per day system, which grows fodder in the small “biscuit” trays may require you to scrub and wash 130 trays every single day.
FodderTech solution: Our system is designed to reduce labor inputs significantly relative to competing fodder systems. Here is how our system is different:
Our modules are built on a mobile, open cantilever rack system which allows easy and unobstructed access to the growing trays for reseeding and cleaning. Each task can be accomplished in minutes. Unique to fodder systems, the FodderTech system requires only an occasional cleaning, consisting only of wiping down the inside of the growing trays about once a month. Typical overhead spray fodder systems, which produce a fodder “biscuit” in small trays, require intensive daily cleaning and a lot of extra water.
Our system uses long, narrow growing trays which make it easier to harvest a lot of fodder at once, and quickly reseed again. We estimate, and our customers report, no more than one hour of labor per day per ton of fodder produced including preparing seed, harvesting, reseeding and cleaning.
One extra hour of labor per day, valued at $15 per hour (and you probably place a much higher value on your own time) amounts to more than $5000 per year in additional operating costs. The difference is even more significant with larger systems which may require several additional hours per day in labor resulting in significantly higher operating costs.
Cost #2: Lower than expected yields. Does the fodder system you’re looking at provide optimal conditions for seed germination and growth. The seed you buy is an investment, and the yield your system produces is return on investment. The industry standard is one pound of barley grain produces six pounds of fodder in 6-7 days, but what if you could get just 1.5 additional pounds of fodder from a pound of grain? A system which can consistently yield 7.5 pounds of fodder from a pound of seed, will produce 70 more pounds of fodder from a bushel of barley than will a system which yields 6 pounds (the industry standard). That’s enough to feed three horses. In addition, too many ungerminated grains in your fodder could violate grass fed standards.
FodderTech solution: A FodderTech system will consistently produce a yield of 7.5 pounds of fodder or better per pound of seed. We attribute that to the fact that we don’t treat our seeds with bleach, and are able to maintain optimal growing conditions via a carefully engineered system design. Let’s suppose you’re supplementing 100 dairy cows with 20 lbs of fodder per day. A system which produces only 6 lbs of fodder from a pound of grain would require you to spend at least an additional $6000 per year on grain alone. With our system, you’ll get a reliable 97%+ germination rate.
Cost #3: Unreliability of system due to mold. Frequent mold outbreaks are the single greatest reason fodder systems have not been more widely adopted on a commercial scale. Mold causes lost production, downtime, extra work, wasted seed and a threat to the health of your livestock.
FodderTech solution: FodderTech systems are designed around a deep understanding of why mold happens in a fodder system, where it is most likely to occur, and how to prevent it from happening. Through system design features and a carefully devised series of protocols, our aim is to keep your fodder system reliably mold-free. We never use bleach or other strong chemicals and because our system operates cleanly and without excessive use of water, it doesn’t require nearly as much cleaning as competing systems to prevent mold.
Cost #4: Change in feed causes losses in production. You may decide it’s a good idea to phase fodder into your operation gradually to allow your livestock to adapt and to test its results against your current feeding program. Every livestock operation is different, and it can take some time to discover the right amount of fodder to incorporate into your feeding program. Can your fodder system be easily expanded to scale to the amount of fodder in your feeding program?
FodderTech solution: FodderTech systems are modular and scalable. This allows you to phase fodder (and system costs) into your operation over a series of months or even years by seamlessly expanding your existing FodderTech system.