Using vertical farms to grow feed: Grōv Technologies in Texas dairy deal

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© Grōv Technologies
© Grōv Technologies

Related tags: vertical farming, drought, Climate change, hydroponics

Grōv Technologies announced that they have signed a definitive agreement with a dairy operation in drought stricken, West Texas, to build what will be the largest controlled environment feed center in the US.

The farm in question is Cnossen Dairy, which was started 45 years ago. The dairy currently milks 11,000 cows and farms over 7,500 acres of cropland. Following the installation of the Grōv platform, it will have access to fresh watergrass based feed year round.

Grōv said the new Cnossen-Grōv Feed Center will be a key showcase in the region for demonstrating sustainable agricultural technology. It will house next generation vertical farming technology that will produce over 288,000 pounds of what Grōv has branded as High-Density Nutrient (HDN) Superfeed per day on “less than 5% of the water used in conventional farming.”

The turnkey growing platform allows for "predictable and highly nutritious feed year round"​ despite the effects of rapidly changing climates on traditional growing cycles, with Grōv claiming such savings will be critical in lessening the impact of drought conditions affecting dairies in West Texas and across the Western US.

The build will be completed in In Q1 2022, said Steve Lindsley, president of Grōv Technologies.

Collaborating on the new feed center will be a company called Dairy Specialists; they will provide local service and support for the automation, sensors, and machine learning capabilities of the new towers. 

While the Texas project is set to be the largest, it is not the only installation that Grōv has initiated in the US. “Three centers are under construction at this time with completions scheduled in Q4 2021 and Q1 2022,” ​said Lindsley.

And the feed innovator is not just US focused: “We are in active discussions with several large operators internationally,”​ he added.

Grōv has developed enterprise-scale, automated controlled environment agriculture (CEA) systems to grow 'high-density nutrient' animal feed. The systems utilize patented low-heat LED technology, seed-to-harvest robotics, and data-driven scientifically proven indoor growing protocols.  

Animal performance data 

The hydroponically grown feed will comprise a portion of the total mixed ration that the Cnossen herd will receive, estimated at between 15 and 30% of the diet, said Lindsley.

Asked to provide supporting data on how the HDN Superfeed can support overall performance of dairy cows, Lindsley told FeedNavigator:

At this time, we have preliminary data from our studies at the Bateman Mosida Farms, Elberta, Utah which points to improved productivity.

“We are just beginning a rigorous 18-month study at the Cornell University Dairy Center, Ithaca, NY to give us more definitive data on the overall benefits of HDN Superfeed.”

The collaboration with researchers at Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences was announced yesterday [September 28]. The Cornell research will be led by Dr Joseph McFadden, associate professor of dairy cattle biology and will evaluate the impact of hydroponically grown feed on production efficiency, nutrition, greenhouse gas reduction and on animal health and welfare.  

"We want to determine whether the inclusion of hydroponic sprouts in a conventional diet is an approach to increase milk production efficiency at a lower carbon footprint,"​ McFadden said. "Understanding the science behind the impact of this type of feed can cross over to other animals with ruminant digestive systems such as beef cattle and sheep."

The early feed trials conducted at Bateman Mosida Farms indicated there is greater feed-to-yield efficiency when cows are fed fresh, optimally grown HDN feed, said the company.

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