Q&A with our Experts Webinar


Questions & Answers
FodderPro 2.0 Feed System
  1. Is there a plan to allow for nutrient density management of fodder such as adding liquid micro-minerals?
    Most of our customers growing fodder do not add nutrients or minerals to the water. It is something that can be done, but is not necessary. If you want to add nutrients to the water, we have hydroponic nutrients that would work well.
  2. Are there any sources of information regarding the amount of total ration that fodder can provide for cows, hogs or hens?
    We are working on testing different seed mixtures in order to provide complete rations for livestock. In the meantime we have feed and forage analysis reports available for a number of different seeds including barley, red wheat, oat, sorghum, sunflower and alfalfa. A university extension office, veterinarian or animal nutritionist can advise you on how much fodder to feed each animal based on those reports. If we don't have the answer, we can help you find it.
  3. Do you recommend any local sources for seed?
    If you are close to Iowa, we recommend Welter Seed. We get all of the seed for our trials from them. If you are looking for a local source, type 'feed and seed' and your zip code into Google and it will usually pull up a couple good stores to call for bulk seed prices. There are also several nationwide seed distributors including Agway Inc., Crop Production Services, Southern States Cooperative, US Seed, All Star, Pioneer and Hancock Farm & Seed Co.
  4. How can I obtain a copy of the nutritional analysis of fodder?
    We have the documents in house and we can send them to you at your request. We have reports available on barley, red wheat, oat, sorghum, sunflower and alfalfa. We are working on getting more reports, including some on mixed fodder for complete rations.
  5. How many FodderPro 2.0 Feed Systems would be needed for an 800-cow dairy operation? I understand that you can piggyback these systems for larger operations.
    For an operation this size, we would custom design and price a system specifically for your business. A quick and easy way to determine how much fodder you should be feeding your animals per day is to take their average live body weight and multiply it by the number of animals you have. Then multiply by 0.02 to find how much fodder you would need on a daily basis in pounds. A good starting point for any animal is 2% of their live body weight in fodder per day. For your application, the equation would look something like this: 1,000 lbs. x 800 cows = 800,000 lbs. and 800,000 lbs./0.02 = 16,000 lbs. You would need a system that has an output of roughly 8 tons per day.
  6. If we are trying to duplicate natural soil dynamics, how do we get those elements without soil?
    Duplicating soil dynamics is not an issue when it comes to growing plants hydroponically. In the FodderPro Feed System, we just use water. There is no medium or soil in the trays and no additional nutrients required. This will translate into less variable and overhead costs in your operation. There will also be less mess for you to worry about and a decrease in issues that can come with growing in soil.
  7. How do you deal with mold growth in the fodder system?
    There are a lot of good agricultural practices that will help prevent mold. First and foremost is your seed source. You want to make sure you are buying clean, fresh seed, not seed that has been stored for a long period of time. Making sure everything is sanitary around your system is also important. We recommend sanitizing the trays after every harvest and that you wear gloves when you are handling the seed. Mold spores can easily be brought in on your hands. The environment is also important. You don't want to place your system next to a big stack of hay or anything else that may contaminate it. Make sure to stay within the temperature and humidity parameters. If you have good agricultural practices, our system is designed to provide the best basis for mold-free fodder. We use drip irrigation and there is plenty of space between the tiers for proper air circulation. We do everything possible on our end to prevent mold for you; the rest is up to you growing with good agricultural practices.
  8. When I soak my seeds, what is the water to bleach ratio?
    We recommend a 3% to 10% bleach solution for up to 24 hours.
  9. What is the minimum ambient temperature for reasonable growth in a fodder system?
    The temperature range we recommend for reasonable fodder growth is 65° to 75°F.
  10. Do you have specifications for the amount of fodder to feed hogs and laying hens compared to cows?
    We recommend starting out with feeding 2% of the animals' live body weight. This is for the safety of your animals. They need to adjust to the fodder over a period of time. If they gain weight or lose weight when you first start feeding them fodder, which they probably will, you can adjust your ration based on how they react to it. You can also speak to your local university extension office, veterinarian or nutritionist for a recommendation of how much to feed your animals.
  11. What procedure do you use to clean the trays? Do the trays come out? How do you prevent the wash water and bleach from getting into your irrigation fluid?
    The FodderPro 2.0 Feed System is a drain-to-waste system. When you clean the trays, the wash water will not get back into your irrigation fluid. There are two ways to clean the trays, either when they're on the rack or removed from the rack. If you choose to clean them when they're on the rack, be mindful of getting debris into the lower level channels.
    No matter which way you choose, the process is the same. Do a light wash down with a 3% to 10% bleach/sterilizing solution (same as what you sterilize the seed in) then a rinse with clean water. There's nothing else to it.
  12. What type of fodder should I grow?
    When it comes to the type of fodder recommended for a specific animal, we encourage you to speak to a veterinarian or nutritionist. It is going to vary based on their current diet, their stage of life and many other things. If you do not have veterinarian or nutritionist that you work with regularly, a university extension office specializing in agriculture is a fantastic free resource. If you need assistance finding a university extension office, give us a call and we can help you find that information.
  13. Can you grow a variety of seeds in one channel?
    Absolutely. We recommend starting with a small quantity of different seeds before making a commitment to any one kind of fodder. You can grow one type of fodder or a blend for nutritional purposes or to offer your animals some variety.
  14. Does the water in the FodderPro Feed System only flow from one end to the other, or can drip irrigation be used?
    The FodderPro Feed System is pitched slightly so that when water enters on one end, it slowly trickles down to the other end. Drip irrigation, in the form of drip tape running the length of the channel is not necessary. Our system is designed to get adequate wetting of the seeds for optimal fodder growth.
  15. What is the average weight of fodder coming out of one tray after 7 days?
    The average weight is about 62.5 lbs. per tray. It varies based on what seed you are growing and you may end up with more or less fodder, but 62.5 lbs. per tray is a modest estimate.
  16. What would the sale price be if you were growing this for someone else?
    You should calculate the cost of water and any electricity that you may be utilizing to produce the fodder, as well as the value of your time. You can also have a conversation with your customer to find out what they are comfortable with paying.
  17. Are there lighting systems built into the fodder system or do you use only natural light for growing?
    There are no lights built into the system. Natural light is perfect for fodder growth. If natural light is not available where you're growing fodder, we have several lighting options that will work for you.
Barn Curtains and Ventilation
  1. How do you properly size ventilation for your barn?
    To determine the proper size for an exhaust vent, divide the CFM (cubic feet per minute) rating of the fan by 600; this will equal the square footage of vent space required. 600 is the maximum cubic feet of air that will travel through a one square foot vent in one minute.
  2. It is very important to take preemptive steps to protect your curtain from wind damage. An unprotected curtain will break down significantly faster than a protected curtain. I recommend protecting your curtain from both the inside and the outside. On the inside of the building I suggest using galvanized wire mesh or PVC hex netting. This will not only prevent billowing, but it will also keep your animals off of it. Using a 1.66" conduit in combination with bolt-on lashing winches will secure your curtain on the outside.
    We are working on testing different seed mixtures in order to provide complete rations for livestock. In the meantime we have feed and forage analysis reports available for a number of different seeds including barley, red wheat, oat, sorghum, sunflower and alfalfa. A university extension office, veterinarian or animal nutritionist can advise you on how much fodder to feed each animal based on those reports. If we don't have the answer, we can help you find it.
  3. Do you have any barn curtain material that is insulated?
    Yes, we have a few different types of insulated curtain. One of the most popular is our Sunshine Curtain. This curtain is made up of two layers of our 5.2 oz. fabric with a poly bubble inner layer and has an R-value of about 4.
High Efficiency Lighting
  1. What type of lighting is best for growing hydroponically?
    It depends on what your crop is. Plants use light in the red or blue spectrum in order to grow and flourish. Metal halide bulbs produce light mostly in the blue spectrum and are used for leafy crops such as lettuce and herbs. Flowering and fruiting is initiated with light in the red spectrum. High pressure sodium bulbs produce light mostly in the red spectrum and are used for flowering and fruiting plants such as tomatoes. Another option is full spectrum fluorescent bulbs. They provide both spectrums of light. The nice thing about fluorescent lights is you can install them much closer to the plants. Metal halide lights and high pressure sodium lights give off a lot of heat that can burn your plants if they are too close.
    LED lights are really what everyone is talking about. You can get them in either the red or blue spectrum and they eliminate white light completely. These lights are more efficient to run, use less electricity and don't generate heat. LED lights, although more expensive at the onset, are going to end up saving you money in the long run.
High Tunnels
  1. What is the minimum height of a high tunnel?
    That's a great question and to give you a little bit of history, high tunnels came from cold frames which developed from low tunnels. Many years ago folks realized that throwing a frost blanket over their crops provided a few extra degrees of temperature control. Certain crops didn't do well with a frost blanket resting directly on them, so people started bending wire over the crops and resting the fabric on that, creating low tunnels. The low tunnels worked so well, people wanted to make them bigger and low tunnels evolved into cold frames. Cold frames can span 8', 10' and even 12' wide. As engineering improved, cold frames became high tunnels that span up to 35' wide. When you ask about the minimum height of a high tunnel, I have structures as short as 6' and as tall as 15' in the center. The height is often driven by the width.
  2. Is there a design that works better for high snow and wind areas?
    That depends on the width that you're looking at. In the narrower widths, the gothic models tend to do very well. A 20' wide gothic does nicely because it is very pointy so the snow slides right off. As you get wider, the slope of the gothic model levels out; it's not as extreme, so in the wider models we recommend the round style. You always want to use 4' rafter spacing and, if you get extreme snow, we can actually add extra rafters or truss packages that are like special cross struts up in the peak of the building.
  3. How portable are your high tunnels? Can I set them up and move them later?
    High tunnels are quite portable and are very easy to disassemble and move to a new location. Their design and construction contribute to their portability. They are mounted to the ground with a ground post anchor, meaning at every rafter leg there is metal pipe driven into the ground. The rafter leg slides over the top and bolts to the pipe. We actually have had a large number of clients who essentially put their structure on a wooden sled. They mount their high tunnels on a 2 x 4 or 6 x 6 and periodically move them. However, this is not recommended for a 30'W x 72'L high tunnel. For the duration of the NRCS program high tunnels cannot be moved because soil quality and water runoff are being monitored during this time. Once the three-year program is over, you can easily move your structure.
  4. Do you orient a high tunnel north to south or east to west?
    High tunnel orientation is different than greenhouse orientation and a lot of people confuse the two. You can follow some of the same guidelines, but the important difference is in a greenhouse you have fans doing all of your ventilation. In a high tunnel, you need to maximize your natural ventilation. Instead of thinking about north to south or east to west, think about where the prevailing breeze is coming from and if you are opening your sidewalls. If you are opening your sidewalls, you want the length of the tunnel oriented towards the prevailing wind so that the breeze keeps air moving across the high tunnel.
Hydroponics
  1. When growing microgreens using NFT what is the average time from seeding to harvest? In addition, is supplemental lighting needed for growth?
    The average time from seed to harvest for most microgreens is 10 to 14 days. If you have a question about a particular seed, ask your supplier. They will be able to give you a definite answer about the specific variety of microgreens you want to grow.
    Supplemental lighting depends on where you are growing. We can help you determine exactly what you need. Give us a call and we can discuss your specific application with you in further detail.
  2. Can you use city water to grow hydroponically?
    A lot of growers use city water to grow hydroponically. Many people don't know this, but chlorine is actually a micronutrient for plants. If your plants react negatively to the levels of chlorine or other trace elements in city water, you may want to consider another water source or invest in a reverse osmosis system. If you have doubts about your water source, have it tested. We can set you up with a filtration system or a reverse osmosis system that will eliminate any unwanted particles in your water.
  3. I am new to hydroponics and I will be growing vegetables in a greenhouse using Dutch buckets. How many minutes per hour and how often per hour should I be pumping the nutrient solution into the medium?
    It depends on the growth stage of the plant and your growing environment. A common Dutch bucket irrigation program is to run the system for a couple of minutes every hour. We offer everything you need to set up an irrigation system and can make recommendations on your watering regimen based on your specific application.
Fabric Structures
  1. In the event of a tear, who makes the repairs and does it affect the integrity of the structure or the warranty?
    It depends on the severity of the tear. If it is a small tear, we have Fabric Repair Tape that is very easy to use. All you need to do is cover the tear and it will hold up for the life of the cover. As long as you repair tears in the cover, they won't affect the integrity of the building. The steel trusses are what support the building and minor tears are not a major concern. As far as the warranty, it depends on the tear. Under normal conditions, you shouldn't have to worry about any tears in the cover. We look at each claim on a case-by-case basis. If the tear occurred due to an issue with the fabric, it is something that we will cover and come out to take care of it free of charge. The majority of tears, unless caused by an act of god, are covered under our warranty.
  2. Does the summer heat in Florida affect the longevity of the fabric?
    For specific layouts, please contact one of our National Account Managers. There are a lot of factors that go into designing the ideal building for your specific application, so give us a call and we will be happy to design something for you.
  3. Do you have any building plans or layouts for feeding pigs?
    It depends on the growth stage of the plant and your growing environment. A common Dutch bucket irrigation program is to run the system for a couple of minutes every hour. We offer everything you need to set up an irrigation system and can make recommendations on your watering regimen based on your specific application.
  4. How difficult is it to construct my building? Do I need to hire a contractor or can I put up the building myself?
    All of our structures come with complete assembly instructions and most of the time they can be installed using simple tools. A couple of people should be able to put up a building within a few days.
Growing Needs
  1. What is the best system for identifying and correcting pH levels in water and how do you adjust the pH if needed?
    We offer a variety of Hanna monitoring instruments, both handheld and standalone. To adjust the pH, you would need an acid and a base solution to reduce the pH or raise the pH level as needed.
  2. What size rockwool cubes are typically used for lettuce in NFT channels?
    Rockwool comes in preformed sheets that fit perfectly into a 1020 flat. The blocks are about 1.5".
  3. Do you need to condition the rockwool?
    No, you don't need to condition the rockwool. We do not condition the Grodan rockwool that we use in our NFT channels in our Technology Center.
Radiant In-Floor Heating
  1. I am planning on purchasing a radiant in-floor heating system for an office building on the farm. Will you design a system if provided a plan? I am especially interested in sizing the boiler and boiler integrated panel.
    We supply all of the components necessary for a radiant in-floor heating system, but we do not design the layout of the pex tubing. That is something an HVAC professional will do for you. We assist you with sizing your boiler and how many BTUs you will need.
Greenhouses and Climate Control
  1. In central Minnesota we need to conserve heat while allowing passive solar gain or crop growth. Is there a recommended movable insulation that is made for this?
    Yes, we offer a retractable heat retention system. It uses a reflective material and is installed on the inside of your greenhouse or barn.
  2. I am using reflective shade cloth in my greenhouse. How far should this fabric be from the plastic?
    It depends on whether you are installing the cloth on the outside or inside of the greenhouse. On the outside, the cloth will lie right against the plastic, which is fine. If you are installing it on the inside, you want to be careful not to create dead air space that can heat up. We recommend installing it by laying it flat on top of your cord or rafter supports.
  3. What's the best way to disinfect your greenhouse, hoses, feed lines, etc. to get ready for a new season?
    When I grew commercially, we used a sanitizing agent that came in a 55-gallon drum. I don't recall what it was called, but it could burn your skin if it got on you, so you need to be careful handling it. We used to run the solution through our hoses, spray down the floor with a pressure washer and then heat the greenhouse for two weeks to kill off any insects.

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