FodderBox Ltd Locations:
- FodderBox Ltd. 11 Barryscourt Business Park, Carrigtwohill, Co. Cork
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‘FodderBox – A Field In A Box’
Hydroponic fodder production- A viable alternative/supplement for 21st century livestock feeding systems
What is hydroponic fodder production?
This method of producing ruminant / non-ruminant feed is not an entirely new phenomenon and dates back to the 1800s when European dairy farmers fed sprouted grains to their cows during winter to maintain milk production and improve fertility. The word hydroponics is derived from two Greek words: ‘hydro’ meaning water and ‘ponos’ meaning labour i.e. water working. It has been used traditionally in areas where weather conditions were not condusive to consistent and high animal feed production. However, in recent times due to a culmination of factors including global warming, increased world population and CO2 restrictions, hydroponics has enjoyed a major revival.
Today, both low cost and high-cost hi-tech hydroponic systems are deployed across the globe as viable fodder producion alternatives. This technological innovation has now arrived in Ireland in the form of ‘FodderBox’. With the tag line, ‘A Field In A Box’, the ‘Fodderbox’ concept is generating interest across ALL livestock sectors, as a method of supplementing existing grass based systems especially in these challenging economic and environmental times.
Hydroponic Fodder Benefits
In modern farming systems time is money. Since hydroponic fodder is produced in a controlled environment, the turn around time is much less than conventional soil based systems. Applying water directly to the plant roots guarantees optimal water usage and in addition used water can be recycled several times. Research has shown that as little as 1.5-2 litres are needed to produce 1 kg of green fodder hydroponically in comparison with 70-160 liters to produce 1 kg of green fodder under field conditions.
With agricultural advancements and an ever increasing world population the availablity of prime agricultural land is becoming a premium. Agritech advancements have ensured that the yields from intensively farmed land have peaked, and in some areas may even be in decline!
The plant root systems of hydroponic fodder are much smaller than in a traditionally grown fodder, which means higher planting density per unit of available space. Also, since hypdroponics is done in a controlled indoor environment, valuable land can be freed up for other agricultural purposes. With traditional field based growing systems, crop rotation is necessary to ensure optimum soil health. With hydroponics the same crop can be grown cycle after cycle with out detrimental effects on yields. Research by Yvonne Kamanga (2016) showed that only one sq. m. was needed to produce fodder for two cows per day, whilst the milk yield was increased by 13%!
NON Use of pesticides, insecticides and herbicides
Modern farming techniques of yield maximisation has come hand in hand with an increased dependance on chemical control of soil-borne diseases, pests and/or fungi. Since hydroponics uses a soil free environment these threats are automatically eliminated.
Improved fodder yield and quality
All hydroponic research has pointed to a marked improvement in BOTH fodder yield and quality. Since plants do not need to develop root systems to find nutrients, growth rates can be improved by up to 25% compared to a conventional soil based system. Hydroponic maize fodder yield has been proven to be 5-6 times higher than field grown and was also found to be more nutritious (Naik et al., 2014). Check out other research findings on fodderbox.ie
Hydroponic produced fodder has been found to be more nutrient dense with lower animal intakes required. Increased levels of crude protein (CP), neutral detergent fiber (NDF), acid detergent fiber (ADF) have all been observed. Enhanced concentrations of vitamins and minerals can also be achieved. Milk yield has been shown to improve by as much as 7-13% in cases.
Consistency of feed supply
Given Ireland’s unpredictable weather patterns and seasonal supply fluctuations, ‘FodderBox’ hydroponic fodder solutions can offer farmers here a guaranteed supply of forage for 12 months of the year. For the beef sector consistency of quality feed is essential for producing a top quality end product and hence profitability.
Reduced carbon footprints
Hydroponics are more environmentally friendly than traditional agriculture, because of the non dependance on fertilizers. This reduces greenhouse gas emissions considerably (Anonymous, 2016). Methane production from cattle, especially beef animals, has also been shown to be signficantly reduced.
What can ‘Fodderbox’ offer the Irish agricultural sector?
Fodderbox Ltd are recent recipients of the coveted ‘AgTechUCD Start Up of the Year’ award and have produced a product suitable for ALL livestock systems in Ireland. They have tailored individual hydroponic regimes for the dairy, beef, sheep, pigs and poultry and organic sectors.
When you sprout grain in a ‘FodderBox’ system 1 kg of grain becomes 6 kgs of sprouted grain that feeds like 3 kgs of grain.
There is no waste, as both the roots and the shoots of sprouted grain are fed directly to livestock every day.
In an ‘Auto-FodderBox’, 1 ton of sprouted barley, wheat or oat grass comes out of a 40’ container on a conveyor belt ready to feed, every day.
With a ‘Mini-Auto-FodderBox’, 60kg/day or 90kg/ day come off a conveyor belt on a 2×1.5m machine ready to feed every day.
Find out more and visit fodderbox.ie
“Having launched Fodder Box Ltd. with the support of Enterprise Ireland, my goal is to increase the profitably of livestock farming, while directly reducing livestock emissions, by integrating hydroponic fodder production into our grass-based system.” – Ella Goddin – Founder and CEO
FodderBox Ltd. 11 Barryscourt Business Park, Carrigtwohill, Co. Cork
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