Some grains are put into treated trays without soil and sprayed with a nutrient-rich water solution (manufactured by Hydroponic farms Uganda) at predetermined intervals. The temperature and humidity inside the fodder system are controlled using only a hydro-net and a hydro-cloth, to ensure higher growth and the best nutritional value possible.
There is no need for electricity in the growing process. You will need a reliable source of clean water.
After only seven days, the fodder is removed from the tray and can be fed to the animals and birds. The fodder is eaten as a whole ie. Animals and birds eat everything (i.e. roots, leaves, and nuts); therefore, the hydroponic fodder system is waste-free, 100% sustainable, and cost-effective.
Growing a Hydroponic Maize, sorghum Fodder.
Hydroponic farming is the process of growing plants without the use of soil .This technology is old as history and was used in famous hanging gardens of Babylon.
Hydroponics technology can be adopted using locally available materials to control temperature thereby making hydroponic farming a reality. A farmer can construct a 3m by 4m house unit which can support to feed two dairy cows or (10 pigs, goats, sheep) and over 400 birds. The amount of fodder from this unit is equivalent to two acres of Napier grass. Hydroponic fodder for livestock is the main meal but not supplement. Actually it completely eliminates dairy meal, maize germ, pollard, poultry fed and even sow and weaner. Without any further do, here are the steps of planting hydroponics barley/wheat fodder.
1. Weighing and Soaking
Weigh the exact amount that is stipulated for the tray that you use. For example, the trays that we use at Homestead Farm Ltd can handle anything up to 4.5kg of seed. We weigh 4kg as part of our protocol. Weigh the 4kgs of seed, put it in a bucket e.g. 10L bucket, soak them in water for not more than 4 hours. The amount of water you put in does not matter, as long as all the seeds are submerged under water.
2. Drain and Incubate
After the soaking is done, drain all the water from the bucket. Ensure you drain all of it as some water is usually observed to stagnate at the bottom of the bucket. Once this is done replace the lid of the bucket. It is best if you would pierce some holes in the lid as the germinating seeds require oxygen. Let the seeds incubate for 2 days in the bucket. One should inspect the seeds atleast once a day and ensure they are moist. You do this by sprinkling a handful of water into the bucket. You will soon notice that they will begin to sprout. This will continue for 48 hours.
3. ‘Plant’ on clean trays
Once the 48 hours of incubation are done, transfer the seeds to a clean aluminum or plastic tray. The tray should be cleaned first, using soap or bleach at best. Clean it well. Transfer the seeds to the tray and ensure that you spread them into an even mat with your hands. Be gentle. The trays should be placed on a slope, with the perforated end of the trays on the lower side of the slope.
Watering should be done at least three times a day. There is no need for watering at night. Be generous with the water, as any excess water will drain out and may be recycled. Ensure that you water the entire tray and all seeds come into contact with the water.
Harvest on the appropriate day …
Day 4 – Poultry
The birds may start feeding on the 4th day.
Day 6 – Pigs
Day 8 – Cows, goats, sheep
USING WATER AS THE MEDIA
Here soil is replaced by water which has the nutrients. This method is used to grow hydroponic fodder for livestock and barley grass for human.
Advantages of Plants Grown Hydroponically
Fast growth and early maturity because seeds do not use a lot of energy and time to break the soil
Increase in yield because plants do not invest too much on root system, hence having extra energy
Elimination of soil-borne diseases like bacterial wilts and nematodes
Increase in harvesting period
Minimal use of fertilizer, water and space
USING WATER AS THE MEDIA
HOUSING: The structure should have a temperature range of between 17-25oc. This is because below 17oc there may be slow growth and above 25oc barley may start fermenting.
SEED: Barley /white sorghum is the best to sprout because of its nutrients and energy, other seeds like wheat, sorghum, millet, maize etc. can also be sprouted.
WATER: Water should be clean and free from impurities.
SUPPORT SURFACE: Treated aluminum trays are the best but they are costly and they require washing with chlorine after every harvest.
FERTILIZER: At Hydroponics Uganda, we have our own nutrients that we use in animal fodder systems. However, water alone may as well be used.