Comprehensive Guide to Hydroponic Fodder

     Planting, Benefits, Techniques, Feeding, and Solutions     

Hydroponic fodder can be grown using various grain seeds, such as wheatgrass, oat grass, barley grass, corn grass, ryegrass, and more. Depending on the specific feeding livestock, you can choose pure water cultivation or add appropriate amounts of nutrient solutions and trace elements to improve meat or milk production.

Comprehensive Guide to Hydroponic Fodder Planting, Advantages, Techniques, Feeding, and Solution

Due to the impact of air pollution, Weather, and land issues, an increasing number of farmers and businesses are turning to hydroponic techniques to grow green fodder. The basic principle involves placing fodder seeds in planting trays and providing water or nutrients through an irrigation system and nutrient solution to meet the growth requirements of green fodder.

Advantages of Growing Fodder Hydroponiclly Compared to Traditional Soil Planting:

  1. Stable Yield and Quality:
    Hydroponic fodder grows quickly, harvests in about a week, and its yield and quality are more stable due to the controllable planting environment conditions.
  2. Saving Land and Water Resources:
    Compared with traditional soil cultivation methods, hydroponic fodder is planted through a vertical growing system and intelligent control equipment, which can save up to 90% of land usage and 70% of water usage.
  3. Efficient Nutrient Utilization:
    For some beef cattle or dairy cattle, you may need to increase the nutrient solution system. Through precise control, it can help your livestock increase meat or milk production.
  4. High-quality Feed:
    Hydroponic green fodder is free of soil impurities and bacteria, as well as pesticides or herbicides. It is more palatable and easy to digest.

Advantages of Growing Fodder Hydroponiclly Compared to Traditional Soil Planting

Comprehensive Guide to Hydroponic Fodder


Compared to traditional green feed, hydroponic feed has multiple advantages.

  • Firstly, it requires less land area, has higher planting efficiency, increases production capacity, shortens growth cycles, and provides high-quality green feed.
  • Secondly, nutrition can be controlled and is not affected by weather and seasons, making it easier to manage and control.
  • Furthermore, hydroponic green feed farming does not require the use of fertilizers and pesticides, making it more environmentally friendly. It is not affected by soil-borne pathogens and weeds during growth, resulting in healthier, cleaner, and safer growth.

Although the initial input cost is high, the comprehensive cost may be lower than the traditional green fodder planting method. In a longer production cycle, it may help to save more costs.

Most importantly, by adding a nutrient solution system, the hydroponic green feed can be supplemented with various vitamins, minerals, and proteins, which can improve livestock productivity and immunity.


Common Hydroponic Grains Types for Livestock Feeding

Barley Fodder:Grows rapidly, and contains rich chlorophyll, vitamins, and minerals, suitable for poultry & livestock feeding.
Maize Hydroponic Fodder:Contains rich protein and various amino acids, grows faster with higher nutritional value, suitable for animal feeding.
Wheatgrass:Has a fresh and fragrant taste, is favored by animals, stimulates their appetite and digestion, commonly used as hydroponic green feed.
Purslane:With less strict growth requirements, grows very fast with strong adaptability, and only needs sufficient nutrients and light to achieve continuous harvest.
Sprouting Alfalfa Farming: Commonly used feed for dairy cows, rabbits, ducks, and other livestock, also a hydroponic fodder that can be continuously harvested. Nutrient solutions can be added to meet the growth needs after each harvest.


The hydroponic fodder system also grows a variety of microgreens. Mass production is possible with only water, without using the nutrient solution, such as the sprouting vegetable of peas, sunflower, corn, nasturtium, beet, dill, fennel, coriander, leek, chervil, kale, mizuna, mustard, and so on.

The hydroponic fodder system also grows a variety of microgreens


While hydroponic fodder production is a relatively simple task, it still requires the right techniques and methods to be used. 2 steps, in particular, are crucial:

  1. Seed selection and sterilization.
  2. Control of temperature, humidity, and light source.

Seed quality directly affects germination rate and disease risk, while temperature, humidity, and light are necessary factors for the healthy and rapid growth of forage grasses and maximum yield.

The Secrets of Seed Soaking Before Fodder Production

  1. Soaking can speed up the germination and growth rate of grains.
  2. Seed soaking improves the germination rate, which helps determine the maximum yield for hydroponic fodder production.
  3. Soaking with ozone sterilization can help clean bacteria and fungi on the surface of seeds, reducing the risk of mold or odor.
  4. Soaked seeds are more likely to develop into strong seedlings in the same growth time compared to unsoaked seeds.

Common Hydroponic Fodder Production Equipment and Their Functions:

Fodder Tray
The bottom has holes to allow water and nutrients to flow, avoiding water accumulation, and it is easy to manage.
Spraying System
Timed spraying irrigation can provide adequate water, and promote green fodder growth.
Humidity is one of the most important external factors during the seed germination process. Low humidity results in low germination rates, while high humidity can cause seedlings to become diseased.
Temperature Control Device
(Such as air conditioning) Temperature is also important for sprouting. If the temp lower, the seeds will not germinate, while being too high can result in mold and odor.
Hydroponic Growing Racks
It’s the hydroponic vertical growing system, a corrosion-resistant and rust-proof is needed, and the size should be suitable for fodder trays.
LED Growing Light
Do not excessively pursue light intensity, as strong light can burn the seedlings. Provided that the light intensity is sufficient.
Seed Soaking Equipment
(optional) Including mesh bags, seed soaking boxes, ozone sterilization equipment, liquid temp control system, and a darkroom.
These devices can help improve germination rates and reduce the impact of pathogenic bacteria.
Water Circulation System
(optional) Indoor hydroponic fodder production generally comes with a water circulation system, but it’s not necessary for container farms.



Hydroponic grass can be fed directly to livestock, dried and crushed as feed, or used as part of mixed feed.


Suitable Livestock Species:

Hydroponic grass feed is suitable for feeding cows, sheep, horses, pigs, chickens, ducks, and other animals.

  • Hydroponic Grass for Cows: Hydroponic green feed can increase the milk fat and protein content of cows, and fresh feed can also improve their mood and health.

  • Fodder Systems for Beef Cattle: Beef cattle usually require feed with high fiber content, but the fiber content of the hydroponic grass is relatively low. Therefore, it is recommended to mix green feed with other roughage for feeding, which is more beneficial for improving the meat quality and nutritional value of beef cattle.

  • Hydroponic Fodder for Goats: Green feed can improve the meat and fur quality of sheep. Sheep can be fed on green feed alone, which can solve the most basic problem of livestock food shortage.

  • Hydroponic Fodder for Chicken: Hydroponic grass can increase protein content and nutritional value, and also reduce the cholesterol content of chicken meat.

Feeding Recommendations for Hydroponic Grass

Different types of animals have different requirements and ratios for hydroponic green forage, which depend on their nutritional needs, feeding methods, and market demands.
Let’s take cows and goats as examples to explore why their requirements and ratios for hydroponic green forage differ from each other in terms of nutritional needs and feeding methods.

Confined sheep need a lot of protein and energy to support their rapid growth and muscle development, while free-range dairy cows need enough fiber and protein to produce milk and maintain their digestive health.

Green Feed For Cattle

As ruminants, they require a large amount of roughage to promote fermentation in their rumen.
However, the roughage content in the hydroponic fodder is relatively low, so cattle need to be supplemented with appropriate amounts of roughage such as hay and straw to meet their roughage needs.

In addition, cows have a relatively high demand for energy and protein, so high-energy and high-protein feeds such as corn and soybean meal need to be added in appropriate amounts to hydroponic green feed to meet their nutritional requirements.
Therefore, cows mainly rely on grass as their main feed and hydroponic green feed as supplementary feed.

Green Fodder For Goats or Sheep

Their rumen is different from that of cows and places more emphasis on balancing the microbial community.
Therefore, their demand for roughage and water is relatively high, and the feeding amount of hydroponic green feed can be appropriately increased.
At the same time, due to the weaker digestive and absorption ability of sheep for high-energy and high-protein feeds, high-quality roughage such as alfalfa should be added in appropriate amounts to balance their nutritional needs.

Therefore, they can be fed with a higher proportion of hydroponic green grass, and supplemented with trees and shrubs, such as leaves and branches, which are rich in nutrients and can provide the necessary fiber, protein, and energy for sheep.


The green fodder in the fodder tray may get moldy and smelly, which is generally caused by high temperatures and humidity.

The solution is to first check the seed density.
control the temperature within 20~25 degrees Celsius.
During regular spray irrigation, provide appropriate ventilation to maintain a humidity environment of 60%~70%.

If only a part of the fodder seedlings is affected, it may be due to incomplete seed cleaning and disinfection.
The affected seedlings should be removed promptly, or the problem will quickly spread.

The growth of hydroponic grass is affected by various factors such as temperature, light, seed quality, etc.
It is recommended that beginners keep a record of the operational steps in the early stage for later problem analysis.

If the hydroponic grass in the same fodder tray does not grow at a uniform height,
the first thing to consider is the quality of the seed,
followed by the unsuitable germination environment and insufficient humidity, or too many thickly laid seeds.

One solution is to divide the tray into two or more and conduct AB testing for different seed densities to compare the planting effects.

The yellowing of seedling’s tips can be caused by two reasons.
One is that the planting layer is not high enough, and the seedlings exceed the light range, resulting in insufficient light and yellowing of the leaf tips.
The other is that the power of the planting light is too high and burns the seedlings. In rare cases, it may be due to low humidity.

The yellowing of seedlings reasons.
If there is insufficient light, plants will lack energy, resulting in yellowing of the young leaves and stunted growth.
Plants require adequate light to carry out photosynthesis, thereby generating enough energy to sustain growth and development.
Three 5W LED light bars are sufficient for the growth of seedlings in a planting space with a width of 50-60 centimeters.

Feeding hydroponic green feed in a standardized way may cause cattle or sheep to have diarrhea, but this is not pathological.
In most cases, it is due to improper handling during feeding, excessive feeding, or improper storage.

The solution is to dry the surface water droplets of the hydroponic grass before feeding,
gradually adapt to the feeding amount,
avoid stacking during storage, and pay attention to ventilation and temperature control in the storage room to prevent grass from rotting or molding.


Hydroponic fodder production uses spray irrigation and circulating water technology for cultivation, achieving intelligence and automated control through temperature, humidity, and nutrient irrigation.

The system maintains a constant temperature between 20-23 degrees Celsius and automatically drips or sprays every 6-8 hours, maintaining a humidity range of 60-70% in the growing space.

In this environment, hydroponic fodder can be produced within 7 days from grains to fresh green feed, and each kilogram of grain can grow into 6-8 kilograms of fresh grass, which can replace more than 20% of concentrate feed and hay compared to traditional grain and other feed materials, greatly reducing feed costs.

There are two common types of hydroponic fodder systems:

Indoor Hydroponic Fodder System:

The indoor hydroponic fodder system is a vertical farming system suitable for any scale. We call it hydroponic pasture.
It mainly involves building the hydroponic fodder growing racks indoors, and then selecting various auxiliary equipment such as water pumps, water circulation systems, irrigation systems, and intelligent control terminals according to actual scale.

The fodder system can be flexibly customized to meet the needs of family farming or commercial large-scale green fodder planting.

    High flexibility, able to provide green feed for family or commercial farming. It can greatly increase the yield of green fodder while reducing the comprehensive cost.
    Manual assembly yourself is required for small-scale planting, and large-scale planting requires sufficient energy support and complete design plan support.
Indoor Hydroponic Fodder System hydroponic greenhouse

hydroponic fodder machine ( shipping container farms):

Converting a 20-foot or 40-foot shipping container into a hydroponic fodder machine allows for the easy production of high-quality fresh green feed.

The fodder machine can produce 500 kg, 1000 kg to 1500 kg of fresh green feed per day, which enough feeding for dozens of cows and sheep in one day. There is also a customized 250 kg home hydroponic fodder planting cabinet available, it is suitable for small farms and family feeding.

    No need for self-assembly, the equipment is already assembled, and it only requires simple operation and settings to start hydroponic fodder production. Additionally, you can place the machinery anywhere and provide green fresh feed to your livestock even in the dry season.
    The initial investment cost is relatively high, and the production capacity of a single set of equipment is limited. External access to water and electricity is required to drive the equipment.


VI.   Is the Hydroponic Fodder System Worth It?

Everyone has their own reasons for being intrigued, but a fodder system is definitely worth considering!

Because it doesn’t rely on land and weather conditions and doesn’t require too much manpower or resources, with just the right amount of funding and some basic skills, it’s easy to produce a large quantity of healthy, pollution-free grass feed.

This can help farmers reduce their reliance on hay and concentrated feed, lower feeding costs, increase farming efficiency, and also avoid food shortages that can lead to hunger and death.
Therefore, for farmers, a hydroponic fodder system is a highly worthwhile method of animal husbandry to explore.

What does the hydroponic fodder system bring to animal husbandry?

Solving feed shortage:

For areas where green feed production is difficult, hydroponic fodder systems can provide an alternative solution to solve the problem of feed shortage, ensuring adequate feed supply for livestock.

Improving breeding efficiency:

Hydroponic feed is healthy, pollution-free, and free from harmful substances.
It is palatable, high digestibility, and can improve the diet and mood of livestock, promote growth, enhance immunity, and increase reproductive rates.

Saving time and labor:

Compared to traditional feeding methods, hydroponic green feed can save a lot of time and labor, as they do not require the tedious processes of cultivation, harvesting, drying, etc., and do not need to clean up grass residue, etc.

Environmental sustainability:

Hydroponic fodder systems have high environmental sustainability, as they do not require large amounts of land, water resources, and fertilizers, and also reduce soil and air pollution.

Stable feed supply:

Hydroponic fodder systems can produce more feed on limited land, enabling farmers to achieve a stable feed supply and reduce feed shortage problems caused by factors such as weather, climate, and market fluctuations. This directly affects the economic benefits of farmers.