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How To Grow Fodder Hydroponically: A Complete Guide

At present, hydroponics farming is used in severe environments like deserts, regions with poor soil, or cities where traditional agriculture has been rendered obsolete by exorbitant land costs. The world's semi-arid, dry, and drought-prone regions—those with persistent water shortages or without irrigation infrastructure—are probably best suited for hydroponics farming.

Sonali Behera
The Greek words "Hydros" (which means "water") and "Ponic" (which means "working") were combined to get the English term "hydroponics."
The Greek words "Hydros" (which means "water") and "Ponic" (which means "working") were combined to get the English term "hydroponics."

The techniques used to produce hydroponic fodder extend back to the 1800s (Kerr et al., 2014), or even earlier, to the time of the "Hanging Gardens of Babylon," when European dairy producers fed sprouted grains to their cows to preserve milk output and increase fertility (Anonymous, 2008). Due to the lack of green fodder in the majority of Middle Eastern, African, and Asian nations, there is a resurgence of interest in this technique. The major reason why it is difficult to improve fodder production is because of the constant pressure humans put on the land to produce cereal grains, oil seeds, and pulses. Hydroponic fodder is one option to fulfill the growing need for green fodder and to augment the limited pasture supplies.

The Greek words "Hydros" (which means "water") and "Ponic" (which means "working") were combined to get the English term "hydroponics." This method involves growing plants or crops in water without the need for soil, usually under controlled circumstances. For a plant to thrive, water and plant nutrients must be included.

However, green fodder may be grown with only fresh water. Water, sunshine, and additional nutrients are the only inputs needed for the hydroponic seed to produce green fodder, which is fed to the animals after around 6 to 8 days of plant development. The key cultivars used in hydroponics to generate high-quality, nutrient-rich green fodder for dairy cows are maize, oats, barley, wheat, cowpeas, etc. Sorghum is not favored in the development of hydroponic fodder since it is poisonous when fed after fewer than 45 days of growth due to prussic acid (HCN) toxicity.

Today, hydroponics is employed in severe environments such as deserts, regions with poor soil, or cities where traditional agriculture has been rendered obsolete by exorbitant land costs. The world's semi-arid, dry, and drought-prone regions—those with persistent water shortages or without irrigation infrastructure—are probably best suited for hydroponically producing feed. Farmers with stony, unproductive soil benefit greatly from hydroponically produced feed. It is a practical, farmer-friendly alternative technique for the production of feed by landless farmers. Hydroponics can be used to grow a variety of fodders, including maize, barley, oats, sorghum, rye, alfalfa, and triticale.

The following are the causes of the lack of green fodder:

  • Land for grazing and growing fodder has become less accessible due to rapid urbanization.

  • Land fragmentation results in smaller land holdings.

  • The farmer prefers raising both industrial and food crops.

  • Due to water-label depletion, there is a shortage of water for agriculture.

  • In agriculture and related sectors such as animal husbandry, a labor shortage is a serious issue for instance.

Benefits of hydroponic feed

The process of producing feed hydroponically has a lot of benefits.

Efficiency: By creating the ideal atmosphere, fodder production efficiency is significantly improved. Since water is delivered directly to the roots and frequently recycled, hydroponic systems save water waste. But since bacteria and fungus multiply during recycling during the growth cycle, the water should be pure. Therefore, it is advised to filter the water using infrared technology before recycling.

Space: Hydroponic systems are suitable for urban residents with small yards since they need less space and time than traditional systems. There are more plants per square inch in hydroponic fodder since the plant root systems are significantly smaller than in conventionally cultivated fodder. It is also simple to create a hydroponic system indoors, where numerous levels of racks are utilized for vertical farming to reduce the amount of land needed and preserve it. In hydroponics, crop rotation is not required because the same species of fodder may be cultivated all year round.

Use of pesticides, insecticides and herbicides: For maximum output, conventional outdoor farming has to use pesticides, fungicides, and/or herbicides. The usage of pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides is reduced since hydroponic fodder is produced in a controlled environment without soil and is not vulnerable to soil-borne illnesses, pests, or fungus. Spraying the crops with the proper insecticides or fungicides can immediately manage an outbreak of pests or illnesses in hydroponically grown fodder. Water-borne plant diseases spread fast; thus, irrigation should only be done with fresh, clean water.

Fodder yield: By supplying nutrients directly to the plants rather than allowing them to grow extensive root systems in search of food, fodder production can be accelerated by as much as 25%. In comparison to a traditional soil-based system, hydroponic systems allow plants to mature more quickly and uniformly.

Significant drawbacks of hydroponics

Total dry matter loss: According to several studies, sprouting caused a 7–47% loss in dry matter (DM) from the original seed after 6-7 days of development. This loss was mostly caused by respiration throughout the sprouting phase.

Nutrient availability: Sprouting barley fodder was 3.4 times more expensive per kg of dry matter than the original barley grains, according to Sneath and McIntosh's 2003 research.

Building a Hydroponic Feeding System

In order to grow good quality fodder, you need to be able to regulate the temperature and humidity to cultivate excellent quality fodder. In semi-controlled climatic circumstances with a temperature range of 15–32 °C and relative humidity of 80–85%, the fodder may develop without difficulty.

Additionally, a small shed net or inexpensive greenhouse must be built since regulated light is required to produce fodder.

You may also use a bamboo log, an iron rod, or a plastic pipe to build a shed net or a cheap greenhouse. To cover this structure, you'll need shade netting or gunny sacks.

Hydroponic Fodder Production Steps:

For the hydroponic fodder production procedure, use only high-quality seeds; never use damaged or diseased seeds since they won't sprout or develop correctly.

To create hydroponic fodder, you may use maize, pulses, wheat, and horse gram seeds. However, you should avoid using pearl millet and sorghum seeds since the sprouting leaves of these plants contain a toxin that might injure your cattle.

For the most part, farmers grow hydroponic fodder from maize seeds. While maize seeds are appropriate for hydroponic fodder production in hot climates, wheat and oats seeds are good in cold climates.


  • Fill a plastic bucket with 5 to 7 litres of warm water. Add the seeds, and remove any that float on the water since they won't sprout.

  • After that, add 50–100 grams of salt to the water; this helps to reduce the likelihood of fungus growing on the sprouted seed.

  • Give this seed around 12 hours to soak in water.

  • Drain the water after 12 hours, and then wash the seeds with fresh water.

  • Put the clean seed in a gunny bag and let it grow. They will take longer than 24 hours to germinate in a cold climate than they will in a hot climate.

  • Before using the tray, thoroughly wash it and examine all the holes to see if they are blocked or not. If they are, clear the obstruction.

  • Spread the sprouted seeds equally on trays after transferring them from gunny bags, then set the trays on the rack.

  • Give sprouting seedlings a gentle sprinkling of water each day. You can utilize sprinkler systems or watering cans to supply water.

  • Water should be given every two hours in hot weather and every four hours in cold weather to maintain moisture.


  • Always keep the shed clean to lessen the danger of mold and fungus growing there.

  • Till they are harvested, do not touch the sprouting seeds from the trays as this will affect how the fodder grows.

  • You may make roughly eight kilos of fodder in seven days from one tray holding one kilogram of maize seed.

  • When making hydroponic feed, create the rack to fit your needs. For example, if you needed five trays of feed each day for seven days, make a shade that can hold 35 trays.

Feeding Hydroponically Grown Green Food

The fodder slabs should be removed from the tray when they are six to seven days from harvesting and sliced into little pieces before being fed to the livestock. This will make it simpler for the animals to consume the fodder effectively.

Avoid storing the feed in the trays for longer than nine days since beyond that time, the nutrients in the feed start to progressively deteriorate and fiber begins to form.

Along with other food and dry fodder from the total amount of fodder, feed this fodder to cattle.

Give this feed to the animals together with other foods and dry feed. Half of a hydroponic feed is combined with half of a dry feed by the farmer.


Anonymous. 2008. Grass fodder by hydroponics in 8 days. http://grassfodder.com/hydroponics.php

Kerr, S. Conway, L. and Conway, A. 2014. Fodder for forage: Fact, folly, fable, or

fabulous? smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/sfn/w14fodder

Sneath, R. and F. McIntosh. 2003. On farm review of hydroponic fodder production for beef cattle. Meat and Livestock Australia Limited. pp:1-54.

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