A 40ft x 9ft fodder box is the equivalent of 40ac of land which can grow one tonne of fresh fodder every day, according to Ella Goddin, who started researching for her business in Co Cork after the fodder crisis in 2018 as farmers looked for alternative methods of feed production.
A 40ft x 9ft fodder box is estimated to cost approximately €60,000 and requires just seed, water and electricity, along with one hour of labour per day for harvesting, cleaning and reseeding.
The box filled with water grows plants using hydroponics and, in the near future, may grow seaweed as part of a Teagasc trial to see if a methane reduction can be achieved when animals eat fresh seaweed.
Research is needed on the benefits of hydro fodder to animals’ digestion, Ella says.
She says that hydro fodder can increase digestive efficiency and reduce the production of methane and ammonia.
Plans are currently in motion to carry out research in Moorepark, Ella notes, and this research would be the first of its kind.
“I am very proud that Teagasc Moorepark is currently considering research cultivating the anti-methanogenic algae, Asparagopsis, in FodderBox to be fed fresh to dairy cattle. This would be the very first research done anywhere in the world utilising fresh algae as an anti-methanogenic feed supplement,” she states.
Hydroponic fodder has been reported to increase weight gain, improve immunity and fertility across many ruminant and monogastric animals. The plants grown have plenty of environmentally friendly benefits, as the system conserves land, does not use fertilisers and so reduces risks to water quality and emissions from fertiliser, while electricity costs are approximately €5/day.
FodderBox uses drip-and-spray irrigation, UV water infiltration and proprietary LED lighting – all without fertiliser and pesticide use.
FodderBox is the winner of the UCD Lyons Agritech Award at the Innovation Arena awards.