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By Molly Mormann, West Delaware H.S.
MANCHESTER – West Delaware High School agriculture students are experimenting with a new way to grow crops.
With their new Fodder-Pro system, a hydroponic feed growing system, students are producing quality fodder, an organic feed for livestock. Instead of spending money on chemicals, large machinery and farmland, money only is spent on seed.
It all started in August, when West Delaware teacher Tammy Schnieders traveled to FarmTek in Dyersville to attend a workshop. There, she learned everything she needed to know about the Fodder-Pro system: how to construct the system, how to grow the plant and how to harvest the produce. She decided it would be a good opportunity to use the $2,500 grant money the agriculture department received from Perkins.
In Independent Study, seniors Joey Gaffney and Shane Bockenstedt constructed the system of trays in Schnieders’ agriculture lab.
Every eight days, five-pounds of new seed is placed in the trays. Then, for two minutes each hour, water comes out of a pipe on one side of the tray and slowly flows to the other end. Light also is needed to help it grow, but soil is not needed. This cycle is continued until the plant is ready for harvest.
“Right now we have barley,” Schnieders said. “Next, we are going to try wheat.”
To harvest the crop, students grab the plant at the end of the tray and roll the product until they reach the other end of the tray. Then, they put it in a bag and take it home to feed to their livestock. In the end, each tray makes 50-pounds of feed.
“Students buy a roll of fodder for $1.50,” Schnieders said. “It’s cheap feed.”
Normally, a bag of feed would cost from $10 to $20.
So far, students have had good results, and Schnieders thinks they will have even better luck as they get more familiar with the Fodder-Pro system.
In the future, Schnieders hopes to experiment with small salad greens.