Wednesday, February 16, 2011

From seed to livestock feed in just six days -- grown year-round

Blackfeet Nation men master hydroponic technology growth

From seed to livestock feed in just six days—and it can also grow vegetables fit for human consumption. (Sun Road Farmory)
Ron Doore and Jerry Boggs have mastered the art of growing and their business has come right along with them.
The partners who started Sun Road Farmory on the Blackfeet Nation in northwestern Montana are seeing success in the hydroponic technology they’ve developed. Their system allows owners to grow livestock feed in six days, year-round, regardless of weather.
Sun Road’s “alternative feed systems” are housed in special units sold to customers. The units provide a controlled environment the seed is grown in. Farmers in several parts of Montana have tested and approved the system.
    The units are available in sizes as small as a refrigerator for small farmers, or as large as an airplane hangar for big commercial farms and ranches. Costs range from $14,000 to $45,000 or more for a custom-designed system. They are easy to ship and easy to use, according to Doore. “The amount of water, lighting, heating and cooling are all pretty much dialed in for the customer, so they just have to plug their alternative feed system into a 110-volt outlet, hook up their water, put the seed in the trays and away they go.” The units include a water tank, shelving and trays, and lighting and irrigation systems controlled by a patent-pending computer technology that controls the variables for all those elements—what they call the “brain box.” (Sun Roads hopes to patent its designs.) The user puts seeds into the trays, turns on the system, and around six days later harvests lush green “biscuits” that are four- to six-inches high, look like sod grown for lawns, and are packed with nutrition. “Animals consume all of the biscuit—the roots and the green roughage—so it minimizes waste on feed. You have a highly nutritional feed that’s high in moisture, so there’s a better hydration rate and better nutritional absorption into the blood stream,” Doore said. “It’s easier for the animals to digest.”
The team hopes to venture into growing bio-fuels and growing food humans can eat next.
Jenna Cederberg

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