Barley Fodder Sprouting Trials continued: New Flood and Drain Tray System Installed

06-07-12 Barley Fodder Trials 00406-07-12 Barley Fodder Trials 008

To get a bit of background behind this project, read our previous blog entry entitled “From Seed to Feed”.

In our Phase One Trials, we were performing a “proof of concept” with using barley grain seed and seedling propagation trays to see if we could grow fodder mats to feed as an alternative livestock feed.  Well, the jury of our peers, ahem, our herd, has ruled that they love the stuff!  The Phase One Trials were not without some challenges.  06-07-12 Barley Fodder Trials 031The approach we used involved trays that did not drain, and were hand watered.  With some of them receiving an excess of water, the barley does what it does best when sitting in water, it started to ferment. When it starts to ferment, it is prone to mold as well. In others, too little water meant the grain drying up and not growing.

In the newly installed hydroponic system, we approach sprouting the barley grain through a flood and drain style tray.  We’ve set up a series of nine trays stacked vertically. 06-07-12 Barley Fodder Trials 029These trays cycle through a timer that periodically turns on a pump in the water reservoir to fill the trays from one end. At the other end, a drain guides the water back to the reservoir.  This approach keeps the barley seeds moist and wet, but not soaking and not drying out.

06-07-12 Barley Fodder Trials 021Since we are using a barley that is classified as “field run”, it tends to contain a bit more chaff and dirt on it. 06-07-12 Barley Fodder Trials 028So an extra step we’ve added at the beginning is to wash and rinse the seed in water. This causes the chaff to rise to the top for easy removal.  06-07-12 Barley Fodder Trials 022Extra chaff and dirt in the barley just adds to the possibility of molds appearing, so we want our grain seed to be as clean as we can get it.

After a good rinse, we toss the barley into a mesh bag for an overnight soaking in a bucket. We add a small amount of chlorine bleach to the water to kill any mold spores on the surface of the grain. We use bleach for a couple reasons: it’s cheap, and effective. It doesn’t affect the germination of the grain, as the overnight soak just softens the hard seed coating for germination. 06-07-12 Barley Fodder Trials 024There are other sanitizers available out there, but for our trials we have found household bleach to be appropriate. We are not worried about a lingering affect as the seed is removed from the soak the next day and placed in the trays where they are awash in water from the reservoir. In addition bleach is effective for about 24-36 hours before it loses it’s ability to disinfect. The mesh bag makes for easy removal and draining from the bucket to the grow trays the next day.

The soaking of the barley is key to good germination. Some farmers will even soak their seed before sowing it in the field in order to increase the germination rates. Our total soak time is up to 24 hours depending upon when we get back to the trays the next day. Any longer of a soak and the barley will simply start to ferment.  Fermented seed is not bad, in fact, it contains beneficial enzymes that are good for the gut of a chicken or alpaca, like a good fermented pickle for people.  I’ve heard of goat owners that ferment grains for their animals for this reason.

However, fermenting is not our goal, sprouting is our goal.  We are concerning ourselves with protein levels and nutrients in the fresh barley grass, rather than enzymes.

06-07-12 Barley Fodder Trials 010Our current seeding rate as well as the watering cycles are not yet set in stone as we figure the optimums out. We are also trying to figure out the best number of days to allow for growth; it seems around 9 days that the best mat forms. At the moment, we are starting with 6 pounds of barley seed per tray. We want a good 1/2” depth of seed in the tray so that we get enough density that the roots knit together to form a solid mat. We started with four 15 minute cycles per day and recently adjusted that down to two 20 minute cycles per day watching for how wet the seeds seem to remain throughout the day versus drying out.

06-07-12 Barley Fodder Trials 009The first tray came due yesterday with this new system installed for about ten days now and from the 6 pounds of seed we got 22 pounds of fodder. That’s almost a four-fold increase in weight; not bad at all for a feed source.  We’ve stuck with this seed rate for  a full cycle of the nine trays so far just to compare against.  We may make some adjustments over time, but for this size of tray, a minimum of 6 pounds seems good, any less and it’s just not as dense a growth.

06-07-12 Barley Fodder Trials 014As far as growth is concerned, well you can see for yourself in these pictures! With a root mat about an inch thick and growth of at least 8 inches, the system works! As you can see looking at the entire tray, the minimum lighting we are providing is enough to green up all the way to the farthest end of the tray from the light source. In fact, if there is enough ambient lighting in a grow space, additional lighting is not really required.

What do the animals think of it? Well the first tray was served to them on a wet rainy day, and as you can see they gobbled it right up!

UPDATE! We now offer our grow trays for sale! See this posting:

06-07-12 Barley Fodder Trials 01506-07-12 Barley Fodder Trials 016

For a video tour of the new system, check out our You Tube Channel:

Tour the new Flood and Drain style system we installed for our Phase 2 Trials.

About David

Making manifest the change I want to see in the world through the hospitality of a humble little homestead campground with yurts and alpacas.
This entry was posted in Ranch Development and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

139 Responses to Barley Fodder Sprouting Trials continued: New Flood and Drain Tray System Installed

  1. Taffy Curtaz says:

    A great set up! Thank you for such a thorough description of what you are doing. I just have two questions, how many alpacas are you feeding? And how big are the nine trays you are filling?


    • David says:

      I explained a bit more in response to your previous comment; we have 14 alpacas and 2 llamas.

      The trays themselves are 13″x40″ and about 3″ deep.
      The footprint of the entire system is in a set shelves that are 48″long x 18″ wide x 8 feet high.

      Each 13×40 tray gets 6 pounds of seed (the present rate, it may change) and today’s tray produced a solid 25 pounds of fodder.

  2. Taffy Curtaz says:

    Thank you again! I did not see the previous response. This is very exciting. My first grow tray is now eight days old and ready to feed. Still lots of learning to do.

  3. Taffy says:

    I have a new question: what are you doing to keep temperatures low enough? I once the heat kicked up down here I now not getting the thick mat growth and mildew. Wondering of you have any ideas?

    • David says:

      Indeed, now you’ve discovered the nuances of barley as a fodder crop and why I’ve tied it to my winter diet strategy vs.relying on it during pasture grazing season.
      Barley is a cold weather crop. To avoid the mold issue and get the mat growth, you have to keep your temperatures down on the low side. From my research, that seems to be around the 45-55 degree farenheit. If you enclose your grow system in a room/shed, you will need to add A/C and a dehumidifier to control your climate. While I’m growing in the summer time, for trials, I’ve discovered that reducing my watering schedule for shorter runs and fewer throughout the day helps too. You can also compromise on the total grow cycle and harvest earlier before it gets to the prime growth. Finally, be sure to change out your water in the reservoir more frequently during warm temps, at least every other day, or consider a run-to-waste drain system rather than reservoir. Fermentation rates increase with temperature, if you are smelling a yeasty smell, your water should be changed.
      Again, my goal is to address my winter expense of hay, by supplementing with this fresh product during the off-pasture season. So, I’ll primarily be growing in lower temps and not worrying about climate controls too much.
      Interestingly enough, fodder grow systems like this have primarily been used in areas of heat and drought stricken pastures with little or no forage; so climate controlled fodder sheds are essential. Here in the PacNorWest, we aren’t addressing drought issues, we are using this to address winter resource issues. Good hay doesn’t grow well in Western WA, but barley does. Regional sourcing of barley is cheaper than imported orchard grass bales. Growing during our cool months, I expect very little in terms of mold problems to develop.

      • Taffy says:

        Thank you. I am doing this to off set costs overall. $20 a bale is killing me and it’s not even a great quality. I’m in the upper foothills of the Sierras so even now temps are dropping to the 50s at night while last week it was 80 degrees. Right now I have a fill and drain situation in the small trays. Some of the hurdles include having the drain holes clog with starch, inconsistent water flow and then of course the temperature issues. One of things I do like is the LED flood light that we put up. It is only 10 watts and keeps everything nice and bright at night. We will be switching to the ebb and flow method that is proving for you as funds allow. I was frustrated at the temp change and lack of growth just as I was getting the alpacas to accept and really love this stuff. I did till up some of my rotation pasture and reseed with barley with lovely results. I’m up too high in elevation to have any real pasture so I reserve this area for under weight or nursing alpacas.
        Thanks again for your imput. I really appreciate your willingness to share. ~Taffy

  4. Kim says:

    I am so glad that I found your site. I have learned more from you in just a little bit than I have learned in a couple of weeks of research on fodder systems. Thanks so much for posting your trials of barley sprouting. I am looking at installing a system for my horses and need to be able to produce 750 pounds per day. Your informative site has been most helpful. One question I do have, tho. On your ebb and flow system, how do you get the trays to drain? Are they tilted a little bit or?

    • David says:

      The nature of the trays are such that there are channels which allow the water to travel towards the drain. The water will naturally drain out from a level tray. However, you can assure that no water is even left in the channel portions of the tray by giving the end a slight tilt, perhaps by shimming it with a thin piece of wood underneath one end. I am find it unnecessary to add a tilt to the trays.

  5. Charlie Cox says:

    Hi David,

    Thanks for the response. I have been looking at the flood and drain-to-waste approach to help minimize mold. I see from your videos that you simply flood the tray thru a tube attached to the side of the tray – in order to flood, do you have to apply water at a faster rate than it drains (controlled by the size of the drain opening?) from the tray? You said that you are now using shorter, less frequent waterings during the Summer heat: how much water are you adding to the tray on each 5-minute flood cycle? I have been experimenting with commercial drip irrigation heads, etc to try to control the amount of water applied on each cycle, but most either make too big a water pattern, or create a fine mist that wets all surfaces and encourages mold growth – any thoughts? Do you have an approximation of how much water should be applied per square foot of barley mat to get germination and growth without promoting mold or fermentation?


    • David says:

      Keep this little mantra in mind, Charlie: Simple is always best.
      Don’t worry about buying different types of drip irrigation heads with flow rates and such. Simply, hook the pump to 1/2″ distribution hose and then run 1/4″ lines off of that to your trays. No need to attach anything to the ends of those 1/4″ tubes, just let them fill the tray. The goal is to “flood” the tray, that is, making sure your pump runs long enough for the water to cover the seed and then stop. My drain holes hook up to 1/2″ tubing. If you ran this on an empty tray, obviously you wouldn’t get a back up of water actually flooding, it would run through right to the drain. However, when you add seed to your tray, to a depth of 1/4″-1/2″ the seed actually slows the flow rate of water to the drain and will block the drain a bit as well allowing the water to back up. Ideal! It only takes my trays about 3 minutes to completely cover the seed/grain. Every cycle the pump turns on will perform the same amout of flooding. I will adjust how many cycles I allow per day based upon my growing conditions. Right now 3x a day works in the summer heat. More than this will tempt fermentation and molds. The caveat is that less watering means a slower growth cycle.
      As long as you are flooding the seed/grain, and then letting it completely drain and be exposed to air, the grain will germinate and grow. Just adjust your watering schedule to prevent any visible drying of the seed/grain. Remember, mold/fermentation is less a function of how much watering you are doing (unless it constantly is sitting in water) and more a function of heat/humidity in your grow environment (the ideal temp for barley seems to be 60-65 degrees). Again, keep in mind I’m still no expert at this, I’m just approaching these trials as a classically trained Systems Analyst: making observations, performing adjustments, monitoring results; or as we like to say “PDCA – Plan, Do, Check, Act”.

  6. Sylvia says:

    Hi neighbor, I would love contact info for your seedman. I’m also in Western Wa. and looking into this for sheep and rabbits : ) Thank you for sharing all your insight and great information!

    • David says:

      You can try Skagit Valley Farm Supply for pricing out field barley. But better yet, contact your local extension agent for information on some farms growing it directly. If you are in Snohomish County, the Snohomish Conservation District has been invaluable to me in this regard. Also, if you are local, feel free to arrange a visit sometime for a tour of our approaches. Barley fodder mat production is only one tool in our toolbox of permaculture here at the ranch. We’d love to show you the others: rotational grazing, a centralized “Dry Lot”, how we use “Muck alley” to help tilth build, sacrifice paddocks that turn into garden paddocks, and a chicken tractor.

  7. Donovan D Theys. says:

    Hi David
    THX, for the info that you are supplying. I’m from Swakopmund, Namibia in Africa. I was just browsing the Net and came along the site. You are giving me brilliant ideas. In Africa we do have problems with water and grazing area.
    Thanks again.
    Donovan D Theys.

    • David says:

      Hope it works out and is successful for you! My notion of success is to position others to be successful in the hopes that it will come back around to me as well. 🙂

  8. Sue Hammer says:

    David – I think your blog has been the most helpful of all the sites I’ve visited in doing research on barley fodder. I am basically copying your first stage now to get a feel for what it entails but I’m already tempted to go to phase 2! Can you show more pictures of the draining side of your set up? You attach tubing to the drain plug and it goes into a bigger tube (or pipe?) down to the reservoir? Are you using rigid tube for that?
    I’d love to see a video of you harvesting the trays. How do you detach them? What do you use to clean and sanitize them?
    Are you still adding B-1 to the water?


    • David says:

      Thanks Sue! For the draining side of the trays during these trials, I’ve simply used the same 1/2″ plastic distribution hoses that are used in garden drip irrigation systems. The drain fittings have these barbed ends on them that the hose actually fits loosely enough on them as to allow them to detach fairly easily. (The drain fittings themselves are 1/2″ fittings, but the tubing I used didn’t snugly attach, so I simply pull them off when I remove a tray.) Each tray joins a main 1/2″ line via a T-connector fitting and that all leads right back to the reservoir.
      I write this amidst the heat of August, the worst of the possible growing conditions, so I’ve just shut down the trials for the time being both until it cools back down a bit, and until we get our new loft built in the barn for the full scale operation (this coming Labor Day weekend). So, while I know a picture is worth a thousand words, you’ll have to bear with me during the transition. I’ll probably make some adjustments to how I plumb things in the new location and I’m considering a flood-to-waste system, instead of using a reservoir. I can still introduce the B-1 to the flood water, but I’m thinking it may be unnecessary; the jury is still out on that for the time being. I need to trial with and without again to see the differences in growth over time. My next entry on this topic will most likely be around October when we move the operation to the barn and scale up production. The new system will have 30 trays, with a minimum of 3 coming due each day. At the ideal conditions, that should mean 75+ pounds of fodder using 15-18 pounds of grain; more than enough for this herd, perhaps with some to spare.
      As for cleaning, the trays, I simply find rinsing them with water is enough; no need yet to sanitize, but it may be beneficial to allow a freshly rinsed tray to dry out completely before the next batch of seed/grain is spread in it.

  9. bader said mohammed says:

    good work david
    we need such systems and ideas in oman desert
    you are the best to the humanty
    thank you

  10. Charlie Cox says:

    Hi David,
    I have trays growing, and am seeing small bits of white at the roots. A few seeds that didn’t germinate are dark. I am growing in a room that is in the low ’70’s, and have cut watering down to once a day for the trays that are further along. How deep is the seed in your trays? I’m wondering if I am putting too heavy a layer of seed in my trays (1/2 inch). I use fresh water.
    Thanks! Your blog has been very helpful!

    • David says:

      I’m placing between 1/4″-1/2″ in the trays, so it sounds like you are doing the same. The room temp is way too high though, ideal would be around 50 degrees. When the temps rise, you’ll notice darkened root structures, less growth in the roots, more of the darkened seeds, and less germination. You’ll also notice that the roots don’t mat together to form a mass that holds together when removed from the tray. At that 70 degree temp, you are going to have poor performance. I bet it even smells a bit fermenty too.

      • Charlie Cox says:

        I don’t recycle the water, but I notice the water draining off does smell fermenty. The trays do not. I have a good root mat that holds together well, and only the occasional seed that didn’t germinate. I think I’m almost there…….. I will lower the temp in the room. I saw somewhere someone mentioned using vinegar in the water. Have you ever tried this? I assume it alters the pH just enough. Any idea how much vinegar to use?

      • David says:

        I’ve not had good luck with adding vinegar to the water supply. For me, it increased the likelihood of poor performance.

  11. Larry Holcomb says:

    David, Thanks for all your help. I have ordered more trays. I am getting about 2 inches of growth in 6 to 7 days. It seems everyone else on the net and in videos are getting 5 to 7 inches. I mentioned in the email I sent you that a dairy farmer in New York state says that the water temp should be in the 50’s to low 60 and he gets 6 to 7 inches in 6 days.

  12. Amanda says:

    David, thanks for all the info! With the drought and difficulty in finding hay here in the midwest, I have been trying learn more about growing fodder. I have seen alot of info about the best temps, but what about minimums? What is the lowest temperature I can expect the barley to sprout at?

    • David says:

      That’s a good question Amanda! It’s one I’m pondering as I move towards construction of our “fodder loft” in the barn where it can get relatively cold during the winter(our winter lows are 10-20 degrees). I may have to supplement heat. I’m thinking that germination happens above 40 degrees, and ideally would be 45-50 degrees. But, that’s just a guess on my part.

  13. Wendy says:

    David, Thanks for all your helpful information. Like most of the others who’ve commented here, you have provided so much more useful information than we’ve found elsewhere. You mention using bleach in your seed soak. How much do you use? I’ve also heard about using Hydrogen Peroxide for the same reason, have you tried that or had any luck using it?

    • David says:

      I use a 5 gallon bucket with about 3 gallons of water and a few (3-ish) tablespoons of bleach; enough to act as a sanitizer, not a lot, very little in fact. I don’t use Hydrogen Peroxide during my seed-soak.

    • Sarah says:

      David, have you thought of using fish in your reservoir for cleaning the water and fertilizer?

      • David says:

        I’m familiar with the subject of aquaponics, but no, I would not use fish in this application. Fertilizer is not a requirement for producing barley sprouts.

  14. Neil says:

    Where do you get the line, drains, and overflow drains. Also is your pump a submersible? Thanks in advance for your info. I enjoyed your videos.

    • David says:

      Hi Neil,
      We sell the trays we use in our system. Send an email to info @ for a quote.

      In my trials, the pump I just so happened to use was a submersible pump. But, this is of little consequence, any pump would do. If you are keen to want to use a reservoir approach (which I’m veering away from) then having a pump that is NOT submersible is probably more advantageous: it won’t require cleaning when you change the water.
      In my production, I’ll not be using a pump, but simply, a timer valve, like you see to turn on a garden drip irrigation system. I’ll rely on my water pressure vs. having to pump the water. I’ll also be eliminating the need for a water reservoir.

      As an aside, here’s the key point I learned about reservoir/pump systems vs. no-reservoir systems: it’s about whether to recycle your water or not. While, reducing water usage by recycling is a noble goal, it is not the best approach for producing barley fodder mats. There is too much runoff in the water, too much a risk of spreading problems from one tray to another, and very frequent water changes become necessary, negating the whole idea of a reservoir. Water usage for growing fodder mats, overall, is very low and can be completely controlled with a valve timer instead.

  15. Dillon says:

    We have been building a system as well. I really think your Fodder system is neat looking.

  16. Katie DuBois says:

    Hi David,
    What a nice guy to share all your knowledge and thank you. My question is that I live in Colorado and like the idea of using a water reservoir due to freezing temperatures. So in your new building what are you doing with the drained water from the growing trays?

    • David says:

      I too initially liked the idea of a water reservoir for a variety of reasons. In my trials, however, I’ve discovered that reusing and recycling the water ends up working against you in more ways than one. The most obvious is how often water changes are required. Once your water gets a little bit of yeast starting to take residence (and yeast is different than mold), that water will start fermenting. That little bit of yeast will cause root growth issues: no more vibrant and thick white roots, instead, grey and slimy roots. The problem gets quickly spread to all your trays sharing the water and you have to then do a complete stop, bleach water flush, and reset of all your trays to remove the problem, not just a simple replacement of water in the reservoir (the yeast takes up residence in the root mats of the trays, and possibly, your plumbing, depending upon your setup). Yeast is one of those problems that will creep up on you. At first you are producing lovely, lush fodder mats, then, over time, the quality of the mats degrades until you no longer can lift an entire mat out of a tray as one piece; it comes out in clumps. Even with a really good diligence towards changing your water, you will find that with a reservoir approach, that a system flush will become a necessary part of the routine. That will translate into a gap in your fodder mat production as you bring all trays in your system to a halt.

      With that said, in moving from my trials (which used a reservoir) to a scaled up production-level operation, I have to emphasize the importance of clean, fresh water. My trays will be using fresh water for their flooding. They will then drain to waste, just like the drain on a kitchen sink. I still have some questions as to whether this fresh run-off can be utilized in some manner. (i.e. possibly being diverted to a stock tank for the herd to drink? Or sent to the garden or pastures to fertilize?) However, in my overall cost-benefit analysis, the amount of water waste the system produces is still really low. So for ease of operation, maintenance, and the health of my fodder mats, I will let the run-off simply go to the drain.

      With regard to operating in freezing temps, I too have that winter challenge, though certainly not to the extent seen in Colorado, given the generally temperate Pacific Northwest marine climate. For my water supply I’ve used “heat tape” (a plug-in electrical product that turns on at temps below freezing to keep the pipes from freezing). I also insulate the pipes. Given the quick flow of water in the drain pipe, I don’t have to take such precautions. But, I’d recommend careful consideration towards protecting your water supply (and drain pipes) as needed for your situation.

      Yes, one can install some fancy solution involving filtration, but given what is contained in the run-off from this type of operation, I foresee a huge effort keeping those filters maintained. Yes, one can also figure out an aquaponics approach as well, but I have no insights as to the requirements in such a system.

      Overall, in the pros and cons regarding using a reservoir approach, while at first seeming noble towards water conservation, the risks outweigh the rewards, and the rewards aren’t that rewarding.

      PS. As I write this, our new fodder room construction is virtually complete! Production starts within the week! I look forward to posting a new blog article, You Tube video, and pictures within a month. If you have found benefit from the information I have shared, please consider supporting our efforts with a donation to help offset our costs (see “Support Us”). For those who’ve followed our story, in order for us to bring forth this public offering, we had to survive a grueling 2-year long county permit process which tanked our cash reserves and cost us over $50,000.00 to satisfy county requirements so we could build something that could be shared with the public. We do need some help if we are to stay afloat. Angel investors are most welcome.

  17. Paul says:

    I am trying to set up a similar system and ran across your page while searching online about the pros and cons of flood and drain versus a misting system. How did you install the drain to allow the water to drain without allowing seed through and without being clogged by the seed?

    • David says:

      Hi Paul, The trays I use have drain fittings that are the ideal size which do not allow the barley to be washed through it. The drain fitting still allows the water to drain; Nothing special done to the drain.
      In our new production setup, we have no plumbing attached to the drains, instead, they drain over a gutter system.
      In the ‘P-Trap’ where all the drains collect from the trays, I do use a mesh filter which I can occasionally clean out from the rare seeds that do make it through the drain.
      BONUS! For a sneak peak picture of our new production system, log on to our Facebook page at

  18. Wendy says:

    Hi David,

    We’re working on building our system now. In our research, we’ve found that the PH level of the water may be a factor that contributes to mold/mildew issue and that the PH level of the water should be around 6. Have you had issues with the PH of your water? Do you do anything specific for that?

    • David says:

      Thanks Wendy for the comment about PH. I have not tested my water for PH, but I am using fresh water from our well which is unchlorinated and unfloridated. Thus, I have not had much issue with quality of water in relation to molds.

      With my flood and drain trays, I’ve only seen molds when my growing conditions, i.e. temperature, change towards becoming warmer. This only happened during my trials where I did not control the temperature of the room (inside the main house) so our summer temps really put a damper on both growth/performance and mold prevalence. At that point, I stopped my trials (August) and resumed them when we got past our hot month.

      In my phase 1 trials, using non-draining trays, molds were a much greater possibility. Anytime the barley was sitting in water, it not only started to ferment, but also started to mold quite readily.

      So, in my experience, I’ve developed the rule-of-thumb that my water cycles are enough to keep the grain seeds moist at all times, but staggered apart so that there is also enough exposure to air without drying out the seed.

      If you are having any mold challenges, I’d start with those two components of your system: temperature control and water cycle control. Get those under control and you really shouldn’t see any molds. Also keep in mind that my initial soak does include bleach which inhibits molds by sanatizing the seed coatings before it gets spread to the trays.

  19. senta says:

    I can’t thank you enough for sharing all of your information, what a blessing! This is on my list of projects and i already feel so encouraged by all the positive feed back from everyone as well as your blog!

  20. Dana Young says:

    We are ranchers from Montana and have been doing about 2 years of research on the barley fodder possibilities for supplement feed for our cattle. We have been looking at some of the typical systems available and have decided that most are cost prohibitive. We need to be at 6000 lbs per day production eventually. I have a fabrication business and have engineering education to build most anything . We are currently looking at a fodder wheel that is available from a company called Nutra-Fix . These are a few of their claims and parameters to grow barley fodder : seed to feed in 6 days [ 1 pound of barley to 10 pounds of fodder] , no waist or drained water , 544 square feet of growing area consumes approximately 100 gallons of water per day . They are using Oxy Boost at 100/1 in the water and 3ppm iodine to control mold and promote growth.
    They have a web sight and you can view the fodder wheel and videos.
    We are currently designing something similar but with more capacity and a different watering technique .
    Through our experience so far we are not totally convinced that only watering the fodder as to what it consumes with no drains in the trays will work. .
    I have book marked this sight and very much appreciate your development and will moniter from time to time to see how you have progressed.
    Thanks, Dana Young, 3 Pine Ranch

    • David says:

      Thanks Dana!
      Indeed there are some great turnkey solutions out there that are commercially available. Most were developed first in Australia, where they are challenged with the lack of vegetation and forage in the outback. I’ve seen pictures of entire buildings devoted to becomng a fodder shed; some completely automated. For a solution like yours, where you have a high output demand, you might want to take a look at some of the solutions that use cargo containers converted into fodder grow sheds. You load the seed at one end, and you harvest out the other end as the trays slide down the length of the container each day, towards a light source. You can then scale up to multiple containers depending upon your output requirements. The cargo container approach, of all the turnkey solutions I’ve seen, appealed the most to me. These shipping containers are readily available to repurpose and can create a good grow environment for this application. Looking at the fodder wheel, my first impression is it seems a bit over-designed, but it does look really unique.

      With regard to water supplementation and such, I am finding that if you can get your growing conditions clean and controlled, then nothing is really required in the water. Oxyboost, Sanident, and other H2O2 type products are readily available if you do recycle water, but honestly, a well designed system, in my experience, keeps it rather simple and minimizes inputs and workarounds. Even in a flood to waste approach, water usage is still considerably lower; especially low if one considered a comparison to irrigating a field to grow forage crops.

      I too am not convinced of non-draining trays. It could be made to work if the control of water was extremely tight (via misters perhaps), but it seems you’ve really got to get the seed soaking just right at the start so they don’t dry out. There is also byproduct that is produced by the barley in terms of starches and enzymes that leach off the actual plant and roots. Accumulating these, versus, washing them away tends to contribute more to the molding and fermenting and slimy roots.

      Just today I harvested 2 trays from my new production system and they each weighed over 30lbs each. So, that was a 5x increase in weight from 6lbs of seed. The freshly harvested trays have a wonderful scent of fresh picked cucumbers and are tasty even to the human producing them.

  21. Dana Young says:

    Just a few more details that I left out from the fodder wheel. They want growing room temperature at 60 to 72 degrees and humidity below 80 percent. Just giving you some different points of view. JMHO ,Dana Young

    • David says:

      I agree with that climate control. My goal is for a 60F degree room (from 55-65 is ideal for me). My humidity in the room generally ranges from 40-70% without any control. I do have my lights on a timer and control the lighting to be on for 16 hours and off for 8 hours, both to save electricity and too simulate a natural day/night situation.

      • Dana Young says:

        David ,
        I know that all the tests that have been established from several different sources have all pointed to the light being more of putting green in the grass than helping grow. The nutrition is negligible light vs dark.
        I do believe that talking with Nutra-Fix the oxy boost incorporated in the water supply has shortened the mature time considerably and they say that it aids the actual feed quality for the livestock. They have no benefit in selling this product which gives me confidence in there information .
        I’m very familiar with the inclosed trailer van systems out there and have some neighbors with two systems in production. They spend some time on a ladder everyday loading and unloading fodder . Thats why I have chosen the wheel concept for accessibility. Each rack on the wheel has 3 tiers of trays times 8 racks . The growing square footage is remarkable.
        Thanks, Dana Young

      • David says:

        A very good point about the “human component” in running whatever system you incorporate into your operation. Using Permaculture Principles as a guideline here at the homestead, we try to reduce that human piece of the puzzle down to a minimum. Any system in place must be designed to not only be sustainable, but maintainable as well.

        Regarding lighting, I have found the same to be true as well; no need to invest in expensive grow lights, a few CFL bulbs, or LEDs will do the trick of greening up the sprouts (and no affect on nutritional contents). I have found that growth is affected, that is, the light does cause the sprouts to stretch a bit more quickly as they reach towards the light source.

        Interestingly enough, when it comes to affecting the actual nutritional content via additional inputs to the system (oxyboost or otherwise), I have found that when researching barley sprouts under the “animal fodder” category, most grow systems will add something to the system. However, when researching it under the “human food” category, as in alfalfa sprouts or wheat grass for your health, most of those systems negate adding anything to the system.

  22. Wendy says:

    Hi David,
    Wished to congratulate you on 30 lb. mats!! How many times a day are you watering now to get that growth?

    • David says:

      Thanks Wendy! My current schedule is 4x a day for 4 minutes long. It’s enough to cover the trays with seed in water and enough for the trays that are further along to get watered without overflowing. My times aren’t set in stone and I may further tailor them (towards a shorter cycle) as I see the results over time.

  23. Owen Rowlands says:

    Thanks for all your help. We (Wendy & Owen) follow your website daily.

    • David says:

      Thanks Wendy and Owen for following along!
      I am growing more amazed each day with this fodder project and can’t wait until I ‘ve got a good bevy of experience with it under my belt. Until we see the metrics (how much hay is left come shearing time and how much fiber harvest is impacted, if any, are two measures we are looking at). Just today, we measured the 2 trays coming off of the production system and was pleasantly surprised that I’m now reaching a 6x increase in weight! That’s 6 pounds of seed producing fodder mats that are weighing 36+ pounds each! Wow!

      • kim says:

        David congratulations on 6x! That is wonderful news. I loaded my first trays tonight. My room temp is about 59 and my humidity around 70. Are you supplementing your room with CO2? I have my CO2 setup to try for 1500 ppm. Thank you for sharing all your information! kim

      • David says:

        We’re becoming quite consistent at converting 6lbs of seed to 36-40lbs of fodder, just using water. 🙂

        I am not doing any supplementing with CO2. I have not found it is necessary since my room, while insulated, does have some ventilation. The ambient air is working quite well to fill the needs of the growing sprouts.
        I’ve looked at CO2 as an option, so, I’ll be curious as to how you experience the impact on your operation.

  24. Kim says:

    I will let you know how it goes with the CO2. I initially started small trials in my pantry back in the summer with just a light bulb, water and air. I was getting seed to feed in 7 days. All went well with that. Now, we have a fully enclosed room, temperature controlled, etc. I am hoping that the CO2 will increase production and shorten the time for growth. I am trying for a 6 day production and hoping for 8 to 1. We have almost 40 animals here so every bit of green helps! Kim

  25. Jeff Rumney says:

    Love your information. We have 40 plus alpacas and are looking to build a fodder system to supplement our hay needs. I have experience in agronomy – I run the Montana State Grain Lab. Our lab provides inspection services for producers of wheat, barley and 20 other commodities grown in Montana.

    I wanted to point out to everyone the potential problems and dangers associated with ergot. Ergot is a fungal disease of most grasses. Barley is susceptible to ergot and is relatively common. The fungus growth replaces the seed kernel with a black to purple structure. This fungus produces a compound that is an analog of LSD. Ergotism caused spontaneous abortions – plus a host of other nasty issues. Please read the article on wikipedia and do a Google Image search for ergot to learn to recognize ergot in your grain. If your grain is contaminated with ergot do not use it for your alpacas – especially pregnant females.

    • David says:

      Thanks for the heads-up!
      So just to be clear, ergot manifests itself on the seed hull of a grain and discolors it, correct?
      We should be watching for grains that look moldy or dark when we go to use the dried grain.
      My question to you would be, will a 24 hour soak of the grain in a bleach solution, kill off the fungi that is coating the seed hull?

      • Jeff Rumney says:

        No – that would be black tip fungus.

        With ergot, the fungal mat – called a sclerotia, completely replaces the seed. The sclerotia are normally slightly larger than the kernel itself. I looks like an over-sized piece of rodent excretia. Think nasty black gnarly mushroom.

        The bleach soaking is NOT effective – nor the point.

      • David says:

        Thanks for the info. Indeed I did a Google Image search and had the so immediate thought, “Oh, look for rat turds!” lol. Seems fairly easy to spot. Thanks for the heads up.

  26. Susanna Rogers says:

    Hi David,
    My name is Susanna and I live in Oklahoma. First let me thank you for sharing all of this information, I would not have known where to start with this if not for your help. We have set up a trial system in our kitchen, (we don’t really cook much anymore), with just 2 trays to start. I bought the AmHydro trays with drains like you use and have tried to follow your approach as closely as possible. Being in the house, I can’t keep it as cool as I would like, stays at about 69 day and night. The mats are growing well, and looking good. We harvested the first one yesterday and found that the bottom of the roots were slightly slimy. The mat looked and smelled good and the sliminess was minor so we tried offering it to our horses and not one of the five would eat it. You mentioned that the sliminess can be caused by starches and enzymes from the grain if allowed to build up, but I am using a flood and drain system like you use and it still happens. I checked the second tray this morning and found it to be a little slimy also. Any thoughts?
    Thanks again for all the great info.

    • David says:

      A couple of thoughts for you.

      The first, obviously, has to do with temps. As I am discovering from my own experience, temperature control is critical in this application. My ideal ranges have vascillated a bit within the differing trials I did, but I am settling in on a range of 60F- 65F as ideal (given my current grow space and outdoor conditions). When the temperature starts rising, say above 65, a couple things start happening. First, the grain seems to put more emphasis on growing the sprout portion versus the root portion. You’ll see some lush green and lengthy sprouts, but your root mat won’t be as thick. Second, a higher temp (consistently higher than 65) will cause the onset of fermentation to begin and yeast to take hold within the root mat (where it is wet), this translates into some slimy root mats (again not as thick, nor as white looking as they could be, perhaps even with a bit of an “off” smell). A slightly slimy root mat is still ok to feed, the palatabilty of it may turn off some animals, so a quick rinse can help as well (per others who have taken that approach…my alpacas love it regardless).

      If you were to control the temps a bit downward (and remember that there is usually a differential between high and low spots in the room) what you will see occur is that the grain will focus more on its root mat for a good portion of the growing cycle (sometimes making you wonder if it is even going to sprout!) You will see that over the course of those days that the seed bed gets pushed upward in the tray. An ideal root mat will push the seed bed almost up to the rim of these trays: Lush, thick and white. Again, it’s the cooler temps that will force the grain to work on the root mat (and cooler temps typically happen during the night cycle). Once a well established root mat is in place, then it’s almost magical to watch how quickly the actual sprouts will spring forth from that.

      The other thought has to do with assuring a good night cycle is in place. In my mind, more focus is on the root mat during the night by the grain. Do not water during the night cycle, the roots are breathing air too.

      Finally, humidity. Keeping the humidity levels lower than at least 50% helps as well (I strive for between 30-50%, and this is occurring on its own given our winter outdoor conditions. Some may require the use of a de-humidifier). My litmus test for humidity is whether or not I see droplets of water at the top of sprouts on more mature trays. This is telling me that the sprouts are having a harder time respirating and getting air to their roots as they move the water up to the sprouts. Thus, more slimy roots because they are having a harder time getting air. A simple fix to this could be to add a fan to help circulate air around the sprouts. It also has the impact of normalizing the temps in the high and low spots in the grow room. Keep in mind that in a typical grow operation like this one probably has higher and lower shelves in their system. If one should see better performance in the higher shelves than in the lower shelves, this should indicate an imbalance in temperature and humidity controls.

      Oh and a PS to this as well: Remember that when introducing a new product, like these fodder mats, to any animals, they’ll most likely given you the strangest look and walk away from it. Try to place fodder mats in a clean feeder, up off the ground, and let them explore it of their own accord. When I first started bringing trays out to my herd, they looked at them as if I had put some alien from another planet in front of them. They had to learn that it was food. This takes a while. Perhaps try to tempt them by top-dressing the fodder with their favorite grain pellets or treats, but remain patient and persist. My herd nowadays are like a group of Pavlovian dogs that when they hear me descending the steps from the fooder grow loft in the barn, are waiting with an eagerness akin to a bunch of puppies.

      • Susanna Rogers says:

        Thank you ever so much. You are a wealth of information. I was a little disappointed when our horses turned up their noses at it, but I will be patient and keep trying. I guess it is a little like a human who is used to fried chicken trying to get used to caviar.

  27. David,

    I’ve been reading your blog and we have set up a system here in WI in an old refer trailer. We started out watering by hand 2X per day and then went to the self watering method with the reservoir. We found that it was just to much cleaning of the water and went back to the hand watering method. We had the temp set at 60, the heat is provided by and outdoor boiler with the water run through an old radiator and blown around the trailer with a box fan. The problem we are having is that the seeds are not really germinating and get a slimy white coating in the bottom of the tray (using germination trays at this point like your initial trial) that smells. We water from our well so the water although hard is “clean”. We have been in a cold snap the last week or so and nighttime temps in the trailer drop off to at least 40 maybe even slightly lower. We have tried soaking the seeds for different lengths of time to see if it makes a difference, putting the trays at an angle for better drainage, the different watering methods and truly just can’t figure out what we are doing wrong. No matter what the seeds look dry on top at watering time, but feel damp and the bottoms ones are soaked. I did a germ test and got a 50% rate in about 3 days so is it my seeds or the growing conditions or both? During the fall when we first started we were getting a black mold on top with the slimy bottom and icky smell, but temps were getting into the 80’s during the day so I think that was part of the problem. I have since bleached all the trays to clean out any residual mold and now we get no germination. Sorry if this rambles, but we are really at a loss and would like to get this working to cut our feed costs.

    • David says:

      Hi Rachel,
      Thanks for commenting. I can relate to all these trials and tribulations, having definitely experienced them during my own proof of concept trials through out 2012. From what I’m able to glean from your comment, there could be a number of factors that are contributing to the inconsistencies you are experiencing. Do be sure to check out our more recent article where I review some more of the particulars to be aware of, but, I’ll need a bunch more information, before I can really be helpful in troubleshooting. If it is an option, I do offer up to 2 hours of technical support, for a charge (MC/VISA), via phone. You can send me a request for such via email at info @ pacapride . com. If you choose that route, try also to include pictures of your setup.

      Just from your comment, however, the two things that stick out to me are: 1) consistency of room temperatures, 2) regularity of watering.

      Keep those room temps solidly between 60-70 degrees. Ideally 60-65 degrees. Below that = slow sprout growth, more root mat, slower harvest cycles. Above that = slimy root mats, poor root mat development, more grassy sprouts, more mold potential.

      Our seed soaking routine is 24 hours. I have great germination rates. But germination is also dependent on that watering cycle a well. If seed hulls dry up too quickly, germination is interrupted. The first several days of a cycle is important in keeping grain moist at all times. Water in 4 hour cycles works well for us.

      I’m not a particular fan of angling trays for better drainage as opposed to using trays well suited to a flood and drain approach. The reason here is ending up with fodder mats that have lopsided performance. I did try tilting trays in my system and found one end of the tray (towards the drain) looked awesome, but the other end was such a poor performer and still looked like seed.

      • Thanks, for the reply David 🙂 As for keeping the temp steady that is easier said than done, our outside temps have been -15 to -20 at night and barely making 0 during the day. Add the wind and we are looking at -30’s So the heater is really having a tough time keeping up. We may need to revamp that part of it. Water we will also have to work on, with the hand watering we have to drag the hose from the entry way of the house out to the fodder house. We are hoping this summer to get a water line buried out to the trailer to give us water out there and that should help I hope… Thanks again and we will keep on trying.

    • I also have a trailer I am thinking about converting over to a fodder system!! Maybe do some fish in there and hydroponics. I just need a good way to heat it. We have a outdoor wood boiler but it consumes a tremendous amount of wood it uses. I live in WI too and am looking into one of the rocket stoves… have you seen them?

      • David says:

        There are so many options within the realm and umbrella of “Permaculture” that seeks to optimize our resources. Rocket Stove concepts abound with the idea that they generally produce more focused heat with less wood. It’s great that you are thinking about alternatives and how a fodder system can be incorporated with other systems like aquaponics. My main piece of advice when considering a multi-system, holistic approach, is making sure everything integrates properly. Seek to understand each system’s inputs and outputs (especially waste streams) so that your efforts are minimized when managing them. For example, Barley Fodder produces a lot of starchy enzymes in the runoff, depending upon amounts being produced daily, this may translate into a much larger aquaponics system that could handle it. But, I don’t know much about aquaponics (yet, lol)

  28. andrea brown says:

    We started our fodder when we ran out of money to buy hay for our three horses and a bunch of alpacas. Everything was going well until we saw the mold, so we had to start over , our last goat did not mind the trial, the horses turned away from a good batch, I think they will get hungry enough they ll eat it. There is some grass left. We have hope that it will work in time. Please tell what you are using as trays. Thanks for the info.

  29. Mitzi Conn says:

    Hi David, You videos are so informative, really appreciate all you are sharing. Would be interested in where you are getting your drains, also do they just sit in the drain hole or do they screw into the drilled holes.

    • David says:

      Hi Mitzi, The trays come pre-formed, but without the holes drilled. You drill them out and then the drain fittings screw into place and use O-rings to seal tight. We sell the trays. You may request a quote by sending an email to us at info @

  30. Tim Izatt says:

    This is Tim Izatt in Utah I paid you to consult with me and I must say that it was worth every penny as I have adapted all of your suggestions I am on my 4th biscuit and each have improved ( I am a little slow) but the info was and continues to be priceless. Thank You!! I am in the process of building a unit to feed 10 head of beef stock I am using your information as my model and I would not hesitate to suggest to anyone serious about raising fodder to be willing to pay you as their confidential consultant. It is worth every penny to avoid the mistakes that are so easy to make. Feel free to use me as a reference I will most definately stay aprized of your progress

    • David says:

      Thanks so much Tim! So glad for your success!

      In fact I’ll add here that I’ve just been set up with American Hydroponics to sell the grow trays and fittings which I am using in my system.

      So, I’ll soon be announcing tray and fitting packs that one can purchase from me.

      Exciting news!

  31. Pingback: From Seed to Feed in 8 days: Barley Fodder Sprouting Trials | Paca Pride Guest Ranch

  32. I started a fodder system in my basement in Wisconsin. 7 days ago and my soaked my seed for 24 hours, temp about 65 degrees.. and it is just starting to get white roots. I have it in trays around 55 – 60 degrees. I am thinking this is too cold for it. I started more tray about 10 degrees warmer and that barely is growing twice as fast.. it now has white roots.. no green yet.. It is the Rassmasen Seed. I am wondering what temp it needs to be at? It is very slow growing.

    • David says:

      I aim for 65 degrees with a range of +-5 degrees. Warmer than 70F tends to cause more problems, cooler than 60F slows the growth down, extending the grow cycle. I run a 9 day cycle.

      • thanks for your reply. I am wondering if the cultivar of seed has anything to do with it like is there faster germination and growing barley? I did a test with different temps of soak water and times… like 45-50, 55-60, and 65-70 degree temp water and 65- 70 was best along with soaking times, and 12, 24, 36, 48 and 12 hours seemed faster to get it out of the water and on the table to germinate. I even tested a tray that I did not soak and put right on the rack with the other fodder trays and it got watered like the others seemed to pop out of germination as fast as the 12 – 24 hour soaks! I am now testing the growing temp and from what I can see, I am seeing the 70 degree sprouts are growing a little faster than the 65 degree. But ultimately, It is all growing slower that the rest of the reports I see on line. Now I am wondering about the water temps and frequencies??? Any advice would be very much appreciated.

      • David says:

        Way to go! These are great tests to be doing. Just keep in mind that your actual results may vary based upon your location, and environmental conditions as they change throughout the year too (humidity can also be an influence). What you are discovering is what will work for your given situation. Indeed, adding a bit more heat will encourage a faster germination, however in the context of overall system performance, when we add heat, we also increase the risk of molding and fermenting in the more mature trays. You’ll also find that in warmer grow environments, you’ll have lengthier and grassier sprouts, but weaker and slimy root mats. Producing fodder is a balancing act between growing a new plant and the decaying of the seed hulls. Check out our other article on the blog ( ) for some more details on watering frequency and other nuances. Also read through the comments on our barley fodder articles where many of your questions get addressed as well.

        I personally find pre-soaking for 24hours the best all around approach of a number of different reasons. But once my pre-soaked seed is spread into trays, my grow cycle is 9 days. I don’t try to rush this along at a higher temp. Over the long haul I have found more consistency and less problems keeping the grow temp averages at 65F.

        As long as the barley seed you are using is considered “viable” seed, then you will find little difference between the different varieties and cultivars that are out there. Given the short duration of sprouting, it ends up that all barley types become fairly equivalent.

  33. Debi says:


    I’m well on my way. We set ours (currently, six trays, soon to add more) up so the water fills the top tray and drains into the next one down all the way through until the last tray drains into the leach field. It’s working pretty well. I do have a bit of a problem with the roots plugging up the drains, Any ideas? Next we’ll set up another on a different shelf system to simplify. I want just support arms coming out from the wall, to make it easier to clean and refill the trays. I am surprised at one thing though, I bought grow lights from Walmart, but the CFL’s seem to work much better. Any ideas as to why?

    • David says:

      A couple thoughts for you. First, I’m a big fan of treating trays in isolation from one another when they flood and drain; for my trials, the trickle-down (from one tray to another) tends to be a cause of long term performance problems and can contribute to spreading problems within the system. Keep an eye towards how that starchy runoff can splash around or accumulate. Over time and multiple grow cycles, watch the performance of the lowest trays in the system compared to the higher ones (and I’m assuming you’ll not be moving trays around during the grow cycle). In a trickle-down system, it is not uncommon to find the lower trays having the weakest root mats, the starchy runoff can inhibit both germination and root growth.

      As far as drainage, this really depends on the type of grow tray you are using. Using trays that have holes poked in them tend to cause the most longer-term problems; be sure the holes you create are large enough for both the water AND the starchy runoff to fully escape. I prefer not using this type of approach. When I sought out my current trays I was looking for large drains with a proper channeling on the bottom to direct the water towards the drain. Having a larger drain, equiped with a drain cap to prevent seed from falling through, has proven ideal for my system. Yes, by the end of the cycle the roots are growing down into the drain, but because of the size of the drain, water still flows out.

      “Grow Lights” come in many shapes and sizes. You do not need “HID” lights. T-12 fluorescent lights work great, and so do the compact CFLs, just be sure to get ones that are “daylight” rated (not soft white). If I had to guess, the grow lights from Walmart are probably fluorescent tube-style and require being close to any seedlings. Distance from the light source, means needing more of that light source. Don’t over focus on the need for a lot of lighting, if your sprouts are “greening” up, they have enough light.

      • What are some ideas on making a shed where you fill the trays only on one end and empty the trays at the other end where they go down or push them down on rollers?? Do you have any ideas on how to make this set up??

      • David says:

        Yes, this has all been done before, especially on the larger commercial turnkey systems, which tend to be more automated. Some of these systems convert old cargo trailer containers and load in one end and unload out the other. Others dedicate buildings with grain silos at one end and a conveyor belt at the other unloading mats into a wagon. If you research the market, you’ll find a bevy of offerings for such systems. As for a DIY system, I think to include such a design consideration correlates to the volume of fodder mats being produced. In small scale, DIY systems such automation might be a bit of an over-design. Thus if one is considering adding it in to the system design, I then question whether it makes more sense to jump to a commercial system to fill the need better. I haven’t really benchmarked what the scalability curve is, but if I had to guess, I’d say that any system producing more than 500lbs of fodder a day for a larger herd needs a robust system design in place that can automate many of the tasks that humans perform in smaller DIY set ups. My focus has been filling the niche between DIY micro-systems, typically producing 10lb mats in small trays, and small commercial systems that typically produce several hundred pounds of fodder daily. In that niche we want to produce the maximum sized fodder mat that is still manageable by the human doing the work, yet minimize the amount of trays (whether fixed or moveable) that cause the work to become repetitive and longer.

  34. randy says:

    im going to use 1020 flats/w holes they are smaller but only cost 82 cents each online just started this process so im testing different ways and seeds i used winter wheat seeds first in small 6×9 aluminum pans with holes in bottom seeds swelled up so much that the mat being to thick was only prob i had but are sprouting great 1 inch tall now at three days soaking them first night in warm water but 6 pounds only cost $ 1.95 and two 6×9 trays was only 1/4 pound seed used and could of gotten away with just using 1/8 pound will prob weigh about 5 pounds after they are done getting to 6 inchs tall

    • David says:

      Good Luck! I always like seeing others do a proof of concept to learn how to produce fodder and all the ins-n-outs about it.
      As you progress with these smaller seedling propagation trays, remember your ultimate goals on how much fodder you will be wishing to produce on a daily basis.
      While these trays are really cheap, you get what you pay for. They will wear out at a fast rate. The size is also too small to be considered when scaling up to over 50lbs daily. This will translate into more human work and effort in the system on a daily basis. I always recommend fodder producers design a system that minimizes the human efforts required to run it. There are even more durable versions of these trays on the market should one decide that they are the best size for their system requirements. However, I personally think that if you are going to exceed producing 50lbs a day, you should consider a larger tray, or perhaps a fixed tray of a longer length. IMHO, the tray used in a fodder system is the single most important component: it should have a design that is most conducive to a successful operation over time; over the long haul as well as figuring as a daily farm chore. After all, a fodder system is another piece of infrastructure on the farm that needs daily management.

  35. Kourosh says:

    hi i am intrested recive full information about fodder hydroponic container. what equipment i need for make a continer
    thank you

  36. New Mexico says:

    We are running a small chicken ranch. 200 hybrid brown egg layers. Growing wheatgrass. Learned a bunch from YouTube and the Aussies. Stopped trying the recycle thing and now run all water out to the trees. Using concrete mixing trays from Lowes (the large trays) and ebb & flow kit valves. Went through the learning curve of fodder production systems and after multiple trips to Lowes for PVC fittings, ended up with a simple system. Could have saved a bunch of learning and expense had we found this site first.

    Our chickens go for the root mass first, green tops last. Egg shells are so darn thick you need to use a hammer to break an egg. Yokes are a strong yellow to orange. Water consumption is down as a result of the wheat grass. Chickens see us coming with the daily tub of grass and its like a shark feeding frenzy.

    We purchase our 50# bags of wheat seed from our local feed store and get better germination rates than the wheat seed sold at the local food coop.

    Our cycle rate is 1 min 4 times per day. Temperatures are whatever the ambient temps happen to be. We’ve woke up to frozen trays a time or two and guess what, the grass grew anyway. It just took longer.

    We soak 12 hours with a bleach solution. After that, the seed is put into our trays then covered with a sheet of green shade cloth (Lowes garden department) to help hold in the moisture. Our southwest desert climate is almost always dry and not much humidity.

    Thanks for the valuable info on this site. Wow!

    • David says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience with feeding chickens! Glad you are having such success.

      How long is your grow cycle for a fodder mat you feed to your poultry?
      Also, are your birds confined to a chicken run or range over pasture?

      In general, when I’ve recommended a sprouting approach to poultry owners, I’ve encouraged the use of a bucket-in-bucket approach and just sprouting the grain in that for about 2-3 days then scatter to the chickens instead fo feeding a full fodder mat to them. Unless chickens are confined in a run, they end up wasting much of the root mat portion. With my free rangers (we don’t close or coop at night, no worries about predators for our 23 birds) they end up having so many insects, bugs, and foraging in their diet, that they take only the best of the fodder mat and then go off hunting, leaving much to waste. I find that they much rather prefer the younger sprouted grain versus taking to task the older fodder mats that I feed to my ruminants.

      Do you experience much waste from what you are feeding (if feeding a fully grown mat)?

  37. New Mexico says:

    We are free range (for what that’s worth in Winter). They roost in the barn at night. Absolutely ZERO waste. Current grow cycle for our mats is around 9-10 days. Our ambient temps have ranged from the 30’s to the low 50’s at night, 60’s to low 80’s for daytime.

    I’m sure that with the advent of abundant free range Summer food, they will get picky with the grass mats.

    This season, we started 60 Cinnamon Queens (another great hybrid from on grass mats within the first week of their growth. They were cautious the first time but now, OMG… Get out of the way! They all slam into that mat.
    Just finished setting up a 4 station timer and two master valves to our system. We are busy with chores and admit that this won’t work for us unless it is bullet-proof and automatic. This whole thing is labor intensive, no doubt about it!

    Our motive for growing grass was the high price of alfalfa bales. Up to $20 per 3-string bale. Our birds loved the alfalfa as a supplemental feed source. We’ve replaced the alfalfa bales with home grown wheat grass. We love the economics associated with grass mats.

    Now, if I can get the Farm Wife to keep up with the germination phase, then we are well on our way to proving this all out for ourselves. Our objective is to get to a 50% fodder/50% grain feed-to-egg ratio. One egg producer in California is shooting for 80% fodder. I think he is dreaming.

    • Debi says:

      I feed barley fodder, with just a bit of wheat mixed in to my chickens. I only have 6 older hens, and 17 new chicks. I have horses, that the system was set up for. The horses get a full grown mat, but the chickens prefer to just eat the seed. They will eventually eat the whole thing though. When they see me walking around with a black tray, they really come running from where ever they are. The chickens are constantly in with the horses, cleaning up whatever they might drop. I still keep feed in their coop for them to go in and get if they need. But they eat very little of the chicken feed anymore. I used to have a lot of seed left in the tray after I fed the horses, now, we’ve revamped our system and more of the seed germinates. I may need to do small trays just for the chickens, that I only let sprout for a few days. I don’t know that the California dreamer is really too far off track. I’m not sure how much my chickens get from fodder and how much is free range, but I do know that what used to be about a days feed can last around a week, or more now, and all they really get is left over barley seeds.

  38. Jan Sutherland says:

    Hi there…I have a question about how you set up the hoses that feed the system. I am currently using a irrigation timer and running the flow from one tray to the next one below by tilting the trays. I see that this is not optimal due to the starches being washed down. So my question is, how are your hoses set up? I only have one inlet to the irrigation timer and then one outlet from which all of my irrigation needs to originate…can you describe how you set up your hoses?


    • David says:

      The irrigation is provided by standard garden irrigation supplies found at your local hardware store: a water timer (mine runs a 9 volt battery), 1/2” drip irrigation distribution line, and 1/4” tubing branching off the distribution line for each tray.

      When the water cycle starts, the garden timer simply opens the valve as I’m relying on my water pressure already in my plumbing (just like turning on a garden hose). The water flows through the main distribution line up to the top and then down through the tubing that runs the entire height of the shelving. Each shelf has 1/2″ tubing branching off this main line running the length of the shelves to serve the trays on that shelf (5 of them). At a point above each tray is where the 1/4″ tubing is punched into the 1/2″ branch line for that tray. The tubing runs from the branch line down to the inside bottom of the tray.

      Each shelf branch of 1/2″ distribution line also has a 1/2″ shut-off valve at the start of the branch line serving the trays on a shelf. The bottom shelf has the shutoff valve slightly closed, while the top shelf has the shut-off valve fully opened. This equalizes the water pressure for each shelf so that all the trays get the same amount of water flow. (In larger systems, an additional pump may be required to add pressure to the distribution lines, thus shut-off valves may not be needed.)

      Parts needed for my 30 tray system with 6 shelves holding 5 trays each shelf (all parts found in common drip irrigation supply sections of local hardware stores):
      1/2″ funny pipe, or drip irrigation line
      2 – 1/2″ elbow connectors for the bottom shelf and top turn of the distribution line from the garden timer
      5 – 1/2″ T connectors for each of the 5 other shelves for the 1/2″ lines branching off of the main line
      6 – 1/2″ shut-off valves for each branch line above each of the 6 shelves
      30 – 1/4″ punch connectors – to join the 1/4″ tubing to the 1/2″ line
      1 roll of 1/4″ rubber tubing
      6 – 1/2″ end caps to seal each branch line at the other end of the shelf.
      1 digital garden irrigation timer (select one programmable for cycles down to 1 minute and multiple cycles)
      1 Connection fitting to join the garden timer to the funny pipe

      • David Jantzi says:

        I was wondering if you know someone that feeds barley fodder to milking sheep ? I got 400 hundred milking sheep here. I would like to feed the fodder to them. How many pounds a day should i feed. So i know how much to grow . I would then be interested in your trays. Your web. Was the most helpful one i could find. We will stay in touch. I just bought the herd so you know what i mean by trying to bring them feed costs down!

      • David says:

        In general, your fodder goal is 2% total livestock weight per day plus 1% hay. Do check with your vet for recommendations of adding a wet feed to your animals diets.

      • David Jantzi says:

        By they way i didn’t tell you this . I am approx. Feeding them 14 ib a head a day complete TMR mix. Thanx Dave jantzi

      • David Jantzi says:

        Have a Q what is the feed value roughly for barley fodder. Protein fat and dry matter and so forth. And other ingredients

      • Kathy B says:

        I have researched Barley fodder and I found an online horse wellness magazine that did a 90 study. I searched, “equine wellness barley fodder” I was impressed with the results that they got. They also list all of the great omega 3’s, and that it is 80% digestible. Hope this helps

      • David says:

        Relative Feed Value is used when testing on a “dry Matter basis” which most test do.

        When we tested ours, the RFV was 245 and protein was around 18%

  39. Christine says:

    Thank you for all the wonderful information and videos. I had one question about the drainage side. I noticed you switched from drainage tubing to letting all the trays empty into what looks like 4″ PVC tubing cut open, is that correct? Thank you again.

  40. Krisitn says:

    we just got up and running with our fodder system. Day 4 looked good. Barley I set on day 3 has mold in trays. We are using field run barley from a local farmer. Just wondering if my trays are staying to wet since we have been playing with getting the flood/drain right. Maybe Im not getting the barley clean enough? Any suggestions?

    • David says:

      Without knowing the trays you are using and how they drain, it’s hard to discern whether you are having “good drainage”. If you’ve poked hols in trays, then this will not be effective. Typically holes or slits in trays are made large enough to allow water to pass through, and small enough so that the grain doesn’t clog them, but unfortunately, tend to be too small to allow the starchy solutes to drain out.
      Also, the problem with molds occurring is not necessarily a drainage problem, but could be linked to a temp/humidity control issues, or a watering method issue (if water is poured into the trays, sprayed or misted, it is travelling through the seed bed to reach the bottom of the tray, this is not a true flood-and-drain or ebb-and-flow approach and causes an increased decay rate among the hulls from the agitation of the water).

      • Kristin says:

        I mimicked your system, just couldn’t afford your trays yet (will be upgrading in March) we used HD cut trays, drilled 4 holes in the end that hang over the gutter system. We have player with the water flow and angle to get trays to drain. I will be ordering the ebb flow fittings to put in the trays this week. I water as ur suggested times and intervals and the 1/4″ hose is attached to the back of the tray with a clip. I think heat is the main issue for our mold. I put in an air conditioning unit and curtain to keep cool temp in the area. My rack is 9ft Lx 6ft T x20in D. My shelves are spaced 16in. I do believe I am lacking in proper drainage now that the heat is under control and a cozy 65 🙂

      • David says:

        I concur with your analysis.
        Also, examine your watering method. Be sure you are not watering the tray “through” the seed bed to get to the roots. Instead try leading a watering tube directly into the bottom of the tray. The idea behind a true flood-and-drain or ebb-and-flow approach is to flood from the bottom upwards (tilting the trays works against this notion and it becomes a waterfall-and-drain or a wash-and-drain approach). After day 4, the actual seed bed should have been pushed upwards by the roots out of the flood zone.
        Good luck!

  41. Kathy B says:

    I also have been attempting to grow fodder. I have 10 horses however, I work everyday and I just didn’t want to be at work and have the automatic watering system flood my house!

    I found another way to grow fodder, and you only have to water 2 times per day. I started this about 2 weeks ago. I soak the barley in a bleach water for 24 hours, then I take 18 qt sink tubs (Walmart) and drill holes in them for drainage. I aerate the seeds in the morning and then stack the previous tubs on top and then water the “tower of tubs” and let them drain into each other. At night I only aerate the tubs and then restack them.

    Around the 4th day, I transfer the seeds (by this time they have a lot of white roots) to 1020 trays with no holes. I use a terrarium top (there are 2 types 7″ with vents and 2″ without vents, but I offset the lids to keep air circulation.

    Most of the time, I have had great results with this method and I have produced 5 trays per day with a beautiful root system and great growth by the 7th or 8th day, but I also seem to have the same problem with slimy, smelly barley as well. I am REALLY confused. I haven’t changed anything. I have a fan going at all times and I keep my home somewhere around 70. I don’t have air conditioning, but I live in the mountains of southern California and I leave the windows open at night and closed during the day and this seems to regulate the temp really well.

    I am just frustrated that I have had 3 days of almost no germination and slimy and then I have a couple of days of beautiful root growth!

    If anyone has any thoughts, I would LOVE to hear from you. I really love the idea but I’m not sure this way will work.


    • David says:

      Unfortunately Kathy, your story is a common one I hear. Your methods are great for a “proof of concept” in trying out and learning the fodder grow cycle, but they are not sustainable as a longer term operation. Just from your description of your approach, I can discern a number of problems including poor watering methods (trickle down from tray to tray is not a good thing), poor drainage (using holes in trays may drain water, however, the gel-like starches tend to “stick” around), and poor temp/humidity controls.

      A sprouting operation is a delicate dance between creating a live plant and controlling the decay rate of the seed hulls along with the fermentation rate of the starchy solutes. Paramount in such an operation is climate control. Or, more specifically measuring your temps and humidity levels to allow you to set a bar for what consistency to maintain.

      Without a well designed system in place, a typical user soon reaches a wall in performance where things decline and do not operate as expected, and certainly, results are not consistent and repeatable. To troubleshoot the problems you are having, with the setup you described is not going to fix much for very long.

  42. Howdy! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a group of volunteers and starting
    a new initiative in a community in the same niche.
    Your blog provided us useful information to work on.

    You have done a extraordinary job! Regards!

  43. Can I take part of your post to my blog site?

  44. Rosalind says:

    It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this superb blog! I guess for now i’ll settle
    for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
    I look forward to new updates and will talk about this site with my Facebook group.
    Chat very soon, with you! Regards!

    • David says:

      Thanks Rosalind for the sentiment! In fact, if you look up at the top of this blog, we have a “Support Us” tab with all the information on how to help us out here at the ranch as we try to make manifest something that the public can enjoy. We’ve always held the belief of sharing and educating the public to be utmost important. At our farm, we’ve even repurposed an old mailbox to become our “donation can” because many a visitor wanted to donate something after enjoying themselves on a free farm tour.

  45. Rebecca Bowman says:

    David, thank you for all of your very good advice. have you ever heard of successfully growing fodder outdoors? Becky

    • David says:

      If by growing fodder outdoors, you are implying a grow system not being within a controlled environment, then the result usually leads to management strategies which compensate for such lack of environmental controls. Fodder can be grow outside, but it usually requires more effort to operate and has more propensity for disease vectors to be present. Remember, creating a fodder mat is a sprouting application. A sprouting application is very different than any other garden or greenhouse applications. Sprouting is usally done with much greater density of planting and without a grow medium being used. While it can be done outdoors, it usually requires a controlled environmental space, controlled not only for temperature and humidity, but also a degree of cleanliness.

  46. Linda says:

    Great site and lots of great information! I’m in the process of starting my own homemade system and haven’t been able to find out how much bleach to use for the soak? Or how much vinegar?

  47. Marilyn says:

    Thank you so much for your youtube video it was very informative. I was really excited about setting up a fodder system however I have a small problem. I live near the Dallas Ft. Worth area and was wondering where I can get barley seed. I have called around to several feed store and none of them carry barley seed. Thank you for your help.

    • David says:

      For seed sources, we recommend contacting your local University Extension Agent for Farmer’s Seed Supply sources in your area. If you can find suppliers for barley grain, request “field run” and “Untreated” grain and be sure that it is “Viable” seed. If you cannot locate a good source for barley, wheat can be used with equal success.

  48. Desiree says:

    Thank you for a great site. I am in South Africa so not able to buy your trays,,,,,I started experimenting and have a q when I hand water the seeds move around the tray either to the side or corner. I want to try with the flood system but am not sure (Also, examine your watering method. Be sure you are not watering the tray “through” the seed bed to get to the roots. Instead try leading a watering tube directly into the bottom of the tray. ) could you advise where I could see a picture of this.? Thank you in advance. Desiree

    • David says:

      You can find further photos of our fodder room on our Facebook page, under our photo albums, there is one named “Our Fodder Room”. It contains some close-ups of irrigation.

  49. Gichuru Riria says:

    Hi David.
    I am from Kenya and am looking at venturing into hydroponics for fodder. My query is one: what is the best material for making the best trays for growing this hydroponic fodder? Thanks.

    • David says:

      Our trays are made from vacuum molded ABS plastics. This material is BPA free as well. Fine a plastics material that would not leach any chemicals. If you cannot find trays of a similar design to ours (with raised bottom sections surrounded by lower flood channels), then you can try retrofitting flat bottom trays with punched holes at one end and giving them a tilt. Water from the higher end using a waterfall/cascade style approach. This is a different approach than what we use, you’ll have other challenges fine tuning your system’s operation, but it can work as well.

  50. says:

    David says:

    July 17, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    Your info is great. I just started a shower tower type system in a unused walk in shower setup. I noticed in the two quotes below you mention barley ideal temp is 45 to 55 and later you mention 60 to 65. Can you take a look and let me know if I am missing something. I have been using 65 as a target for my set up. Lower temp is fine but I do not want to sacrifice % of seeds sprouting.

    Indeed, now you’ve discovered the nuances of barley as a fodder crop and why I’ve tied it to my winter diet strategy vs.relying on it during pasture grazing season.
    Barley is a cold weather crop. To avoid the mold issue and get the mat growth, you have to keep your temperatures down on the low side. From my research, that seems to be around the 45-55 degree farenheit. If you enclose your grow system in a room/shed, you will need to add A/C and a dehumidifier to control your climate.
    Remember, mold/fermentation is less a function of how much watering you are doing (unless it constantly is sitting in water) and more a function of heat/humidity in your grow environment (the ideal temp for barley seems to be 60-65 degrees).

    • David says:

      Thanks for the opportunity to clarify that Larry. I should have stated that barley will germinate in temps as low as 45-55F degrees.

      In my production system currently in use, I’ve settled on my ideal temp range to be 60-65F degrees. However, the big caveat to that is what works for me in my locale may not be suitable to local conditions elsewhere. You may find that your ideals range around the 70F degree mark and still avoid molds. I know for some growers they have no problems operating in that range. If I tried that, I’d be getting molds starting up.

  51. Steven says:

    Great info here on your blog, as well as the videos!
    Question: Can you recommend a seed/crop that doesn’t require the low temps that barley does? I tried a 50/50 of oats and barley for my horses. Sprouted great, but by day 5, I was getting *strong* fermentation smell!! The pans I’m using don’t have drainage, so I hand drain them, keeping the seedlings in. Doing this in my house, and don’t have a room that I can keep at 60 degrees!
    Appreciate any ideas!

    • David says:

      Barley is a natural fit for a sprouting application because it can grow at cooler temps which helps keep mold growth at bay.
      However, wheat can be used in warmer grow spaces. Actual temps will vary according to local conditions, but with wheat you can hover around 70F and still get away mold free. In even warmer tropical climates, corn can be sprouted for maize grass sprouts.

      Unfortunately, oats tend to be more difficult in general and do not do well in a sprouting application, especially if they still have papery husks around the seed hull. I would move from oats and just use either barley or wheat entirely.

      Drainage is a crucial element as well to avoid over starching grains early on, which will just lead to fermentation. No water should be left standing in a tray.

      Just keep in mind that molds can happen for a variety of reasons, many times it is because sprouting is being done in a “Mixed Use” environment rather than a dedicated and climate controlled space, despite good pre-soaking sanitization of the grain. Even your irrigation methods can influence whether you will speed up or slow down the decay rate of the discarded seed hulls once the grain sprouts. Molds always take hold on the seed hulls first.

  52. Taza Gul says:

    Hi David,,

    thanks for the information they were so useful, want to you to know that I am the first one in Afghanistan trying to grow barley hydroponic grass, so every thing is new for me, that’s why I need to ask many questions hope you wont mind,
    my first question is does this system need special kind of lights or bulbs as I read some say LED flooding lights and some people say dome lights? and can during the day I turn off the lights when there is sun lights?
    2nd question is does all the try should be lighted directly by lights rays I mean the rays most reach all tray or just its enough that the tray should be in shadow, I mean there will be light but not direct bulb light,

    looking forward to your advise

    • David says:

      Sprouting applications require very minimal lighting, compared to other grow operations. That said, if back portions of your system should get shadowy because of front installed lighting, it is possible to have uneven stretching in the sprouts from front to rear. The use of LED light strings mounted above trays can help even growth out. Be cautious about using lighting within the grow system that gives off too much heat, that may heat the grow trays and cause fermentation. We set our lighting for 16 hr days and 8 hr nights.

  53. Pingback: Fodder Production: Further tips for successful sprouting | Paca Pride Guest Ranch

  54. Taza Gul says:

    Thank you David for replay,
    but you used English like I am also American or like English Is my native language lol,
    any way thanks a lot.
    PS, if I need more help from you in future then from Afghanistan how can I pay you?
    as I read in some comments that they paid you for further information,

    • David says:

      We accept MC/VISA for donations. We charge an hourly rate for setting up clients for troubleshooting support or system design consulting via email and phone calls. Contact via our phone or email to be set up as a support client.

  55. Taza Gul says:

    sorry I forgot to ask one more question,
    how much seed you lay or put in one square meter area?
    I mean if I have a tray of 14 inch wide and 44 inch long how much seeds should I put in it?
    and after how many hours u water the trays

    • David says:

      Spread your seed to be between 1/4″-1/2″ inch thick.

      Our irrigation schedule delivers 1/5th a gallon of water to a tray during the watering cycle. Watering cycles are 4 times per day 8am, noon, 4pm, and 8pm. Do note that there is a 12 hour break which coincides with a simulated nighttime period as well (lights are on 16 hours and off 8hours, with the no irrigation period overlapping that time)

  56. Taza Gul Hemat says:

    i see, thank you so much David, wish u green future

  57. mustafa says:

    Hi, Can you please tell me where you get your trays? thank you

  58. Pingback: Zöldtakarmány-előállítás kísérlet 6. nap – NestHome

  59. Pingback: This Barn has a Secret! | Paca Pride Guest Ranch

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s