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Wessington Springs native is inventor of HydroGreen’s patent-pending system

"We wanted a Porsche, not a Chevy." So says Dihl Grohs, inventor of HydroGreen's patent-pending automated system that has the potential to produce 250 acres of green forage in a 24-by-6 feet area. Located directly north of Sioux Falls, HydroGreen...

Seed begins to germinate on a table film in a continuous cycle of seeding, growth and harvest. An in-house supply of fresh feed may very well be the next step in transforming the efficiency of animal agriculture.
Seed begins to germinate on a table film in a continuous cycle of seeding, growth and harvest. An in-house supply of fresh feed may very well be the next step in transforming the efficiency of animal agriculture.

"We wanted a Porsche, not a Chevy."

So says Dihl Grohs, inventor of HydroGreen's patent-pending automated system that has the potential to produce 250 acres of green forage in a 24-by-6 feet area. Located directly north of Sioux Falls, HydroGreen Global Technologies supplies a labor-free system that grows nutrient-rich feed year round. Powered by the science of hydroponics, the indoor growing system can produce small grain forages from seed within six days.

Grohs, a native of Wessington Springs, was first inspired to develop the concept of a low-maintenance forage growing system during his time spent raising cattle in Idaho. Limited precipitation in that area made supplying feed for cattle a challenge, especially when competing with neighboring dairies for quality feeds.

"It's either feast or famine," Grohs said.

Thus began the quest for developing an in-house feed system requiring little to no maintenance. Through much trial and error, along with the collaboration of some additional minds, Grohs created a structure requiring only seed, water and light. When coupled with HydroGreen's technology and grow system, the execution is simple.

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"We can feed a thousand head at the push of a button," said Craig Livingston, president of HydroGreen.

A touch-screen tablet serves as a user-friendly interface for producers to easily manage HydroGreen's grow system, from seed depth to watering to harvest. The company's "land on a stand" has six vertical levels, each layered with a half-inch seed bed at varying stages of growth on a table film. A fine mist launches seed germination, while subsequent growth occurs with a gentle rain automated irrigation system.

Every day a different level is ready for harvest, which can be activated by a single touch on the control panel. As the film rolls off the table, the forage is sliced into pieces by a water jet stream, ready to be incorporated into a ration. The film is immediately cleaned and seeded down. As long as the auger from the bin is supplying seed to the grow system, the operator simply runs the control panel.

"We wanted to have almost zero labor," Livingston said.

The numbers behind the science pose some fodder for thought for producers interested in economically feeding livestock. While feed costs for a cow/calf operation grazing six months out of the year come to an estimate of $576.40/head, HydroGreen shrinks that bill to $488.18/head, which creates a savings margin of $88.22/head. That margin increases to $186.46/head for a drylot cow/calf operation.

With HydroGreen's innovative lead in producing sustainable fresh forage for livestock, Livingston believes the company has the potential to change the face of animal agriculture. A climate controlled environment creates a year round growing system, eliminating problems such as weather variables, pests and the need for chemicals and fertilizers. In an era of limited land availability, HydroGreen just may be the ticket for producers unable to access more acres.

HydroGreen is currently experimenting with different forages and developing mixtures to improve the feed quality. Barley, wheat, rye, millet and oats have been part of the seed lineup, and field peas and triticale are being tested as well.

"We're trying to do things to increase energy and protein," Livingston said. "We want to make a contribution to the feed value."

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Grohs believes HydroGreen's feed can be utilized by not only the dairy and beef industries, but also by swine, poultry, equine, sheep and organic operations. With a controlled environment, the consistency of fresh feed is both reliable and high in quality.

"The animals love it," Livingston said. "It's just like candy to them."

The grow system is customizable and easily expandable. The system is also designed to be assembled and installed anywhere across the globe. While the technology to manage the system will be sourced from South Dakota, Livingston says the infrastructure for the grow system will be manufactured locally for the customer.

HydroGreen has already received favorable feedback from producers as units have been sold and installed in South Dakota, Idaho, Minnesota and Canada. Livingston believes the company's location as well as unique opportunities have contributed to HydroGreen's progress.

"We just fell into the right place," Livingston said.

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
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