Agriculture / Animal Feeding / ASSP / East Africa / Ethiopia / Forages / ILRI / LIVES / Observations / Tigray / Value Chains

Hydroponic fodder production for smallholder livestock farmers

 

There is a broad consensus that most smallholder agricultural systems in Africa are far from being models of modern 21st century agricultural production. Measured by multiple criteria including the use of technologies, application of inputs, and organizational and institutional set ups required for modern production, processing and marketing of agricultural produces, smallholder agriculture in Ethiopia is not exceptional. Focusing on the educated young ergeneration farming community has the potential to modernize traditional farming.

Behaylu Abraha is a young university graduate who owns and manages ‘YB Plant Micro Propagation PLC’ – a small family business engaged in hydroponic technologies in Mekelle. After working for a private tissue culture company for seven years, he decided to set up a private business in hydroponics (fodder, mushrooms, vegetables, and certified pre-basic and basic potato seeds) in a 420 m2 rented residential house. The actual effective area used for hydroponic fodder production is 160 m2.

Hydroponic fodder production involves the growing of cereal and legume grains using moisture and suitable nutrient solutions without soil, and harvesting green shoots and root mats within days. There are as many controversial issues as there are claims in the use of fodder hydroponics for feeding livestock. The frequently cited weakness is a reduction in dry matter when seeds are converted to sprouts. There are also reports that feeding barley and wheat sprouts led to increased animal performance.

Setting aside the unresolved issues, Behaylu built an ordinary plastic sheet cover to sprout seeds of alfalfa, barley, oats, and wheat. He recalled that at the beginning some of his clients had doubts about the actual feeding value of sprouts, and only slowly realized the benefits after they tasted the sprouts and root mats he offered them.

Today, the number of dairy farm owners relying on Behaylu for hydroponically produced barley fodder has grown steadily, reaching 400 milking cows. There are additional fatteners with more than 140 heads of finishing cattle fed on hydroponic fodder. Some poultry farm owners with more than 10,000 birds are also interested in feeding such green feed.

The current production capacity within the 160 m2 space is 1.2 t/day, and is projected to reach 25 t/day in the near future. For this purpose, the regional government of Tigray has offered Behaylu 3000 m2 land to expand hydroponic fodder production to large numbers of smallholder farmers. In fact there is a need to look at the actual response of feeding root mats and green shoots to dairy cows, poultry and small ruminants under smallholder farmers’ specific context. LIVES is collaborating with Behaylu in capacity development for landless youths and establishing linkages with dairy farmers and fatteners. Such collaboration is expected to yield result based production and economic evidence for some of the controversial issues surrounding the production and feeding of hydroponic fodder in the context of smallholder farmers in Africa.

Contributed by Yayneshet Tesfay, Gebremedhin Woldewahid, and Dirk Hoekstra

25 thoughts on “Hydroponic fodder production for smallholder livestock farmers

  1. The hydroponically produced fodder looks promising, Can you share the nutritive value of the fodder and how many days is the growing period.

    • Dear Arnel,
      Thanks for the comments. The growing period varies between 7-10 days. We will share the required data including nutritive values in the future.

  2. Reblogged this on my Horn of Africa and commented:
    This is a young man trying the ‘unwalked path’ in the filed of forage production. His courage and creativity is examplary. However, universities and research institutions in the region should help in clarifying the economics of the new system with regard to local context. Moreover, the system can further be developed and refined to make it flexibly adaptive to current realities in the region known for its emaciated and low productivity livestock.

  3. This is a young man trying the ‘unwalked path’ in the filed of forage production. His courage and creativity is examplary. However, universities and research institutions in the region should help in clarifying the economics of the new system with regard to local context. Moreover, the system can further be developed and refined to make it flexibly adaptive to current realities in the region known for its emaciated and low productivity livestock.

  4. would like to know and learn more on this technology if I can be linked with some body in Kenya who can help in working with me on the basics so that this can help grow our small holder farmers.

    • am in kirinyaga,Kenya practicing this system to achieve fantastic results in feeding free range kienyeji chicken, dairy cows and pigs tend to love it the most. i can help cover the basics of installing a grow space,trays and watering mechanism,as for seeds,there are suppliers for all variety of cereal seeds fit for hydroponic sprouting.samsonkrmr20@gmail.com.com

  5. I would like to congratulate Behaylu on this new venture for Ethiopia. I would like to contact Behaylu or the farm to know more about what they are doing. Can you provide contact details of Behaylu please?

  6. Congrats i am Dr.P.Sasikumar, Veterinarian from India i like to know more about your hydro phonic fodder production methodology. i like to propagate this methodology to the farmers of my village and my country. The commercial hydro phonic machine is very costly. Then i surf the Internet i saw your great work. If you have email address or contact details kindly sent the mail to my email (drsasikumarr@gmail.com).

    keep work hard for farming community. Thank you.

  7. Nous commercialisons des machines de cultures hydroponiques, c’est des machine conçu surtout pour faire pousser de l’alimentation de bétail, n’empêche qu’elle peut servir à faire pousser des aliments propre à l’alimentation humaine. Ces machine réduisent le cycle de production de l’orge par exemple à sept jours, pour au final avoir une pousse de trente à quarante centimètres. Avec un rendement qui varie de vingt cinq kilogrammes à cinq cent kilogrammes, c’est machine sont super efficace pour les zones arides et comme appoint pour les élevages intenses.

    L’objectif de la technologie proposée est de réduire le coût unitaire des produits de l’élevage, tout en augmentant son volume et la qualité de l’alimentation, et en assurant toute l’année la ration naturelle d’alimentation équilibrée. Les quantités requises du fourrage sont produites à partir de la germination d’un grain durant un cycle de 7 jours, le grain va germer pendant cette période, Le rendement d’un kg des grains est de 6 à 8 kg de masse verte. On obtient ceci grâce à la technologie Hydroponique, parce que dans la nature un tel rendement est impossible,

    La quantité de protéines dans grain sec, va doubler dans le fourrage vert, la teneur en calcium augmente de cinq à huit fois, P de deux fois. En outre, la nourriture est enrichie en carotène, la vitamine C, les vitamines B (B1, E2, B3, B6, B12), la vitamine E, ​​etc

  8. Hi there,
    I have the technology of fodder hydroponic.
    If anybody interested in it you can mail me on waselmhm@gmail. Com

    Regards,
    Eng.vasil

  9. I’m really proud of you , I’m living in Addis Ababa , and I have been researching about haydroponic farming on internet , and I’m so happy that I found someone from Ethiopia. please I need to know more ,how can I contact you and learn more ?

  10. Im really excited about hydroponic fodder production. I wish to adopt this in my small young dairy farm in Meru-Kenya.

  11. I hope it is one of the best solutions to our livestock problems. really your contribution is grate. p/s may i get ato behailu’s address?

  12. I have seen what you are doing and it is very interesting please email me your contact. I want to visit

  13. Dear Mr.Y.Tesfayatcgiar, I just got into this subject and wonder if it would be helpful in the very arid area’s like the Afar region , where temperatures may go up to 40 C. Instead of plastic, i have to use maybe only shading netting? Do you have any experience with this.

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