A few fodder system manufacturers are growing fodder in small trays which produce fodder “biscuits” which weigh around 16lbs and are admittedly conveniently sized, especially for smaller operations where you’re distributing fodder rations by hand to a few animals.
We use 13 foot long growing trays and are occasionally asked why we don’t use smaller trays. There are a few good reasons why our system is designed the way it is including the ability to harvest, clean and reseed the system quickly, producing as much fodder as possible in a limited space, and reducing the number of moving parts in the system which are subjected to a lot of handling causing wear-and-tear.
But the most important reason has to do with mold-prevention and the type of irrigation we use in our systems.
One of the biggest challenges in producing a mold-free fodder system is to reduce environmental moisture as much as possible while allowing seeds to germinate. We want our seed to be moist, but we don’t want moisture on the walls, on the floors or in the air. We want water on the seeds, but not pooled under them.
So we use something called nutrient film technique, or NFT. With NFT, seeds are watered from below and not from above. Water flows from one end of the trays to the other moistening the seeds and then draining out. A few minutes later, you won’t find any pools of water under the seeds where slime and mold can form.
The trays all drain to a common recovery trough where the water is collected, filtered and conditioned to be reused in the system. At no point is water lost to over-spray or discarded. You will find our systems maintain a fairly dry environment. This is an important component of mold-prevention.
Overhead spray watering tends to be fairly messy and water-inefficient. It makes it difficult to reduce mold growth without resorting to adding bleach to your water supply.
It can also be difficult to effectively drain a lot of small trays. Because small trays tend to pool water and develop slime, they require thorough cleaning after each use. Think about this: If you’re growing 1000lbs of fodder per day, that’s about 62 trays per day you’ve got to clean. It’s a big, big deal, and a primary reason fodder systems have a reputation for being labor intensive. The insides of our trays only need to be lightly wiped down about once a month.
Our systems are extremely water efficient. We think this is important. And because we’re not discarding the water every time we irrigate, it allows us to condition it at a low cost for optimal pH and mineral levels.
So there you have it. There is a method to the madness! On top of everything, the fodder mats our system produces are quite easily handled. They slide right out of the trays into a cart or a trailer. It takes literally 5-10 seconds to harvest 90+ lbs of fodder. They also work very well in a TMR mixer, or can be easily shredded in a Fodder Shark.