When it comes to cattle nutrition, fresh forage is ideal. But in some regions, water shortages for pasture irrigation and short growing seasons make this challenging. Vancouver-based CubicFarm Systems is hoping to change that by feeding cows with forage grown on-site in an indoor farming system.
The company’s HydroGreen Grow System is able to sprout grains such as barley and wheat in a controlled environment with minimal land, labor, and water inputs. It claims that the HydroGreen can reduce water consumption by 92% and greenhouse gas emissions by 7.4% compared to field crop production.
“We are able to feed animals live green feed without having an enormous footprint of land [and] fresh water,” CubicFarm’s CEO Dave Dinesen tells AFN.
“When the animals eat this kind of feed, they’re able to absorb all of those nutrients and enzymes and their digestion is vastly improved. So, the waste that they excrete is far less nutrient-dense, the runoff from the farm is less nutrient-rich, and there is less methane that the animal gives off,” he claims.
The HydroGreen system is fully automated and performs all growing functions including seeding, watering, lighting, harvesting, and re-seeding with the push of a button, according to CubicFarm. It stands 80-feet long by 10-feet wide, and is 20-feet high.
One module costs $250,000 and CubicFarm sells them in sets of six.
Beef and dairy producer Burnett Land & Livestock recently invested $1.5 million in the company, which is publicly traded on the Calgary-based Canadian Venture Exchange. As part of the private placement deal, it is receiving 12 units of CubicFarm’s GLS808 HydroGreen module to pilot in its operations. This marks the first commercial-scale installation of CubicFarm’s tech.
Based in Carpenter, Wyoming in the US, Burnett’s operations include over 17,000 cattle located on 35,000 acres across the central and western regions of the country.
Through the investment, Burnett and CubicFarm Systems plan to collaborate on further R&D in a project called HydroGreen Vertical Pastures. The effort will focus on data collection around the livestock feed nutrition benefits, dry matter yield percentage gain, and performance of the herd, with a special interest in fertility, milk production, and the overall wellbeing of the animals.
“We’ve installed systems in six other farms, sometimes multiple systems per farm, and we have a lot of anecdotal data,” Dinesen says.
“The farmers buy more machines because it is going well, but we haven’t done the disciplined trials. That’s what we are going to do with the Burnett installation, assessing both dairy and beef.”
But feeding 17,000 head of cattle is no small task.
CubicFarm claims that 12 of its GLS808 HydroGreen modules — the latest iteration of its flagship product — can produce 80% more fresh livestock feed compared to its earlier models, providing Burnett with up to 72,000 pounds of feed each day. That’s enough to feed 2,000 animals daily with HydroGreen feed, making up 7% to 20% of the animals’ total ration.
“The benefit is that you can feed consistently 12 months a year. Even if there’s snow and frost – or it’s too hard to irrigate in the summer,” Dinesen claims.
“So, now literally every day you can give your cattle the right percentage of live green feed and they’ll reward you by performing better than they’ve ever performed.”