As is widely known, the demand for livestock products – meat and milk increases with economic development. The world’s livestock sector is growing at an unprecedented rate and the driving force behind this enormous surge is a combination of population growth, rising incomes and urbanization.
The key constraint in managing the demand and supply of the livestock products is the availability of feed and fodder to support livestock production. Animal feed production also competes with food grain production with implications for food security for resources such as land and water.
In this situation, Hydroponic fodder production can be a ray of hope for farmers who have limited land and are dependent on purchased feed.
The word hydroponics has been derived from the Greek word ‘water working’. Hydro means ‘water’ and ponic means ‘working’ and it is a technology of growing plants without soil, but in water or nutrient rich solution for a short duration.
The hydroponics green fodder production unit consists of a green house and a control unit.The size of the green house is approximately 25 feet (length) x 10 feet (width) x 10 feet (height) and has a potential to produce 600 kg of green fodder in 8-10 days .
Hydroponics fodder production has many advantages over the traditional approach:
The fodder is ready in a week after planting, unlike in traditional farming systems where one have to wait for 40 to 45 days after sowing.
It can be used to grow fodder in large quantities using very less space.
The risks of adverse environmental conditions is minimized. One can grow adequate quantity of fodder under controlled environment.
It is simple to get complete control over nutrient balance by using nutrient solutions.
The hydroponic fodder production technology also has its challenges:
The technology is more scientifically evolved as compared to traditional system
The fodder is prone to fungus or bacteria if the hygienic conditions are not maintained.
Cost of equipment is higher. It can limit the adoption of technique by small farmers
Research shows that there is change in composition of fodder crop grown in hydroponics as compared to natural greenfodder. The CP, Ash, EE, NDF, ADF and water soluble carbohydrate (WSC) were increased whereasOM and non-fibre carbohydrate (NFC) decreased (p<0.05) in the GF when compared with the original grain.
Fodder Production using Hydroponics
Hydroponics is already popular in different parts of world including India. Kerala Dairy Development Department (KDDD), in Kannur and Thrissur districts, under its Integrated Dairy Development Project, has recently introduced a scheme to produce hydroponic green fodder. The department has already distributed 24 hydroponic fodder units to select dairy farmers .
The use of ICT combined with hydroponics has led to further technological advancements such as the M-fodder model in Kenya. The hydroponic fodder producers are linked to dairy farmers via M-fodder. M-fodder is an ICT based solution for linking dairy farmers with nearby fodder producers.
This has advantage for both farmers and producers, farmers getting quality fodder at reasonable price and producers getting prior information so that they can plan their production batches.
References are available on request
Dr. Meeta Punjabi Mehta, Dr. Ankaj Sharma