H20 Farm is a company in the UK that is using hydroponics for their fodder production. This company, as well as others (such as US companiy FodderTech), could very well revolutionise farming as we know it.
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil, using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent to feed the plants. There are many different types of hydroponic systems (1). H20 Farm uses a unique and patented system that grows sprouting barley from seed to feed within seven days (2). Only seven days! So the efficiency of this system is pretty remarkable.
The company says that this system can be used anywhere in the world where power and water are available. Moreover, it can produce tonnes of fodder every day, all year round. Their system has been around for a decade and has so far been successfully implemented across Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, Morocco, the Middle East and the US. People all over the world recognise the system’s attractive benefits. One important advantage the system has over traditional methods of farming is that it uses a fraction of the resources.
Image source: H2O Farm
We need to revolutionise farming because the planet is in a dire state right now – due, in large part, to many harmful farming practices. Climate change means hotter, drier summers in the UK. While, as a Brit, you may be overjoyed at the prospect of maybe getting a real summer for once, this should also be of real concern. These conditions can lead to serious water shortages (3). A rising population also means greater pressure on water resources (4). Farmers therefore need to produce more food with less water. And this is exactly what H20 Farm is able to do with its hydroponics system.
It uses around just 870L of water per tonne of feed produced, compared to the typical 50,000L used in the field. It uses nearly 60 times less water compared to traditional farming! These savings are made possible by the use of Nutrient Film Technique (NFT): water is constantly recirculated and then recycled. It also uses a fraction of many other precious resources.
It’s low on electricity use (around 35kW is need each day to power the environmental control system) and it’s low on manpower too, needing only 2-3 hours each day for the harvesting, re-seeding and managing. And if that doesn’t convince you how hydroponics can revolutionise farming, consider these other benefits.
This system eliminates the need for farm machinery, such as tractors, harvesters and balers. In addition, it means a significant reduction in the regular transportation of feed and hay around the country. Less machinery and less transportation means fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Land is also used very efficiently. The use of a vertical growing system is central to the high volume production of fresh fodder in such a small area (5). The company claims that its system will regularly produce 3,000kg per metre square of land per year. Arable land is quickly disappearing, so these methods of production are absolutely necessary (6).
In a highly influential report titled Livestock’s Long Shadow, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) found that global meat production is responsible for 18% of GHG emissions. The main sources of emissions are feed production (45%) and digestion by cows (39%). H20 Farm say that their fodder is highly digestible, which will prevent a lot of the methane emissions associated with the constant chewing and belching from cows (7).
Hydroponic fodder production will revolutionise farming in ways that not only benefit the environment, but animals and farmers as well. Given the overwhelming evidence that many alternatives to traditional farming methods are more efficient, sustainable and rely on fewer chemicals, it would be extremely backwards – and downright nonsensical – if this way of farming isn’t widely adopted in the near future.
About the author: Sam Woolfe @samwoolfe
I’m currently a Writer at The Canary, covering issues relating to the food industry, drugs, health, well-being and nutrition. I’m also a Blogger for Inspiring Interns, where I offer careers advice for graduates. If you have a story you want me to cover, drop me a message on Twitter (@samwoolfe). You can also check out my travel blog (samreflectsontravel.com) and personal blog (www.samwoolfe.com) to read my articles on philosophy, psychology, and more opinion-related content.