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June 13, 2019

Namibia: Hydroponic Grain Sprouts To Counter Drought-Caused Forage Shortage

As farmers clutch at straws to save their livestock in the face of a crippling drought gripping the country, a Namibian company has thrown them a lifeline.

Agritech Namibia is training farmers in hydroponics to produce fodder to be harvested in eight days. This is growing plants in water without any soil.

“We have been training farmers in hydroponics fodder production and we believe this can help them save their livestock at a fraction of the costs of conventional feeds,” said one of the instructors, Lawson Manyika.

So severe is the drought that president Hage Geingob declared it a state of emergency and the government set aside N$570 million (1 US$ = 14.86N$: June 2019 for mitigation programmes.

Manyika said in the face of the drought and high costs of feed, hydroponics fodder gives farmers an affordable and sustainable source of fresh fodder to see the livestock through their drought.

“With hydroponics we grow fodder from maize or barley and harvest in eight days.In fact, from day four it can be fed to poultry, from day six to rabbits and on day seven or eight to cattle, goats and sheep,” he said and advised farmers they can use untreated maize from granaries, as long as it can germinate. He said 40 kilogrammes of seed can give a farmer 400-500 kilos of fodder in seven to eight days.

Explaining the process, Manyika said seed is soaked in water for four hours to absorb enough moisture for germination. It is then put in a germination chamber for 24 hours until sprouts appear, then it is moved to growing trays.

“The seed has enough nutrients and energy for germination and when shoots appear it is able to survive to a certain stage.

“By the third day the plants will be five to 10 centimetres and from day four to six they will reach 20-25 cm. At this stage the seed will still have some nutrients stored so the fodder can be fed to poultry, rabbits and pigs.

“By day seven and eight the plants will be 25 to 30 cm and the seed will be depleted of nutrients. This is the time to harvest for cattle before the farmer incurs extra costs on fertiliser,” Manyika said.

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