Grass in Hydroponics Fodder Machine
Amazing grass! For farmers.
One needs no soil, no open field to grow grass.
An indoor facility with a hydroponic fodder unit can provide any commercial dairy farm with enough green grass to meet the nutrition needs of the animals.And the technology is quite simple and easy. Initially, it’s cost-intensive but cost-effective in the long run.
This was disclosed to a large group of dairy farm proprietors, who gathered on the premises of Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR) in the capital yesterday afternoon to know about the soil-less green fodder technology.
The BCSIR has just brought from the US three hydroponic units with daily grass production capacity of 450 kg, 300 kg and 200 kg and installed those inside a 1,800-sq foot indoor facility on its compound.
Scientists and experts explained that one kg of wheat seeds can yield seven kgs of nutritious grass in the fodder machines within a week.
Rezaul Karim, a principal scientific officer at the BCSIR and key initiator for producing hydroponic grass in the country, told The Daily Star, “Once a dairy owner or a commercial grass farmer installs one such unit, he will require regular supplies of good quality grass-growing seeds (of wheat, maize or other grains) and some mineral solutions, all of which are available in our market.”
Hydroponic grass is economically more lucrative to many dairy farmers in the US because of its high productivity, greater nutrition values and non-susceptibility to diseases and infections (which is usually the case when grass is grown in the open), Rezaul pointed out.
Also in India, some dairy proprietors have started growing grass in such indoor facilities, he added.
Rezaul mentioned that fodders grown in this system are more nutritious, rich in minerals and micronutrients, and also germ-free, and they could increase milk production by up to 15 percent at a dairy farm.
Some of the dairy farm owners, who visited the BCSIR indoor facility for growing grass, said initial involvement of high investment is a concern. They hoped the BCSIR scientists would work out how to build such hydroponic fodder machines at a low cost in the country.
FodderTech, a Utah-based leading US hydroponic fodder technology company, sold the three units to the BCSIR for Tk 17 lakh with a guarantee of 30-year service.
Talking to The Daily Star, Russell Black, operation manager of the company, said they use seeds with a germination rate as high as 98 percent.
“We soak the seeds in seed treatment solutions for 86 hours and then put them on the trays and place them inside the hydroponic fodder facility, which has a controlled environment with required minerals, micro and macronutrients, light and temperature.”
Using specially-designed equipment, this system converts grains into fresh, green feed available for harvest all year round regardless of outside climate and temperature.
The FodderTech official said hydroponic fodders have become popular among American dairy farmers, and that there is no reason why the same should not happen in Bangladesh.
After visiting the BCSIR fodder facility, Tofazzal Hossain, owner of a small dairy farm on the outskirts of the capital, said, “I know I alone cannot afford one (fodder producing unit) but certainly we will be looking forward to install one through a collective effort.”
“We have an association named ‘Panchagram Dairy Farm Owners Association’. It has more than a hundred members. We will hold a meeting soon to see if we can have one under the association’s ownership,” he said.
Tofazzal has grazing land at his disposal but many of his peers in the association don’t have any. They have to either buy grass or lease land for growing grass to feed dairy cattle.
Asked what feature of the hydroponic fodder attracted him the most, the dairy farm owner said, “It’s nutritious, safe and hygienic. The grass we buy or grow in open fields for our animals sometimes causes diarrhea and other diseases to the animals.”