A buddy of mine finally decided to take a look at fodder as a way of minimizing his feed costs for his cattle operation. He picked up a how to build a fodder system manual for $30. We got to talking. And I convinced him into letting me build him a system with near double yield at almost half the cost. This post will outline the initial build.
This build allowed me to rectify some of the issues I encountered on my first fodder build.
Some of the issues in the previous system:
- Pump size to feed individual lines per each tray, 24 trays in all
- Leaky drainage
- Plumbing complexities
- Flimsy trays
I wanted to use the pros of the previous system:
- Easy build
- Small foot print
- Low cost
- High output
- Attainable by all
With my marching orders in hand my buddy and I headed off to home depot to get 100% of the parts needed. No online orders. No visits to specialized hydroponics shops.
I kept the HDX shelf system as the base of the build. 2 of these shelf systems with the legs cut in half create a very strong multi-shelf system that is entirely water proof and very easy to assemble. I used a previously cut leg as a template for the legs.
The shelving went together very quickly this time around. As you can see in the background…I have done this once before!
Then I added cedar 1x2s to create the lift in the shelf to ensure that the tray drains appropriately.
We will be using 28qt containers instead of 10x20 trays. These trays measure 23x16.25.
Efficiencies gained with these new trays:
- much more durable, heavy duty plastic
- 24 10x20 trays provided 33sq/ft of fodder growing space, 16 of these trays provide 42sq/ft
- this system has one less tray to clean and one less tray to seed each day
To make this system easier than the previous one we are going to try a top fed, trickle down design. This will mean we have two water outputs into the top trays, which then drain from one tray to the next.
The next difference that was made in this system is in the drainage system used. Instead of just drilling holes in the ends of the trays we opted for something more stable. A simulation of a commercial product widely used on other fodder systems.
The greenish colored drain mounts near the bottom of the tray and allows water to flow out immediately. However, just in case the green drain clogs up, you mount the black drain next to it which allows for an emergency overflow drain. This keeps your trays from flooding all over your fodder room. This pairing costs around $9.00 plus shipping.
Instead I opted for a set of products to yield the same functionality. I used terminal adapters and an o-ring. Each was less than 50 cents.
I then applied the drill press to the male adapter. This gives me the trickle flow I need to go from tray to tray. But I also get the emergency overflow drain with the open top of the 1/2” adapter.
The idea of this system is that I will be able to flood the trays on the top. They will fill quickly and overflow into the trays below filling them as well. Then the pump will go off and a slow cascade effect will happen. If this doesn’t quite work as planned I can easily and quickly fall back to a standard PVC drain pipe set up and pump water to each shelf separately which will then flow directly to the sump.
With the drain parts fabricated I then moved on to prepping the trays. I need to drill a hole in each tray to accept the drain fitting. I located the position of each trays hole by determining where on the shelf the tray sat. I wanted to align the drain fitting with the holes in the shelf under the tray. This way the fitting would pass through the shelf and drain into the under-lying tray. I found that each hole didn’t quite sit in the center of the tray. Also, as I had some trays leaning towards the front and some towards the back, there were different measurements for each tray depending on if the tray was in the front or back, left or right. It was consistent from there.
I wrote down the measurements for each. For the back trays I measured 3 1/2” in from the back of the tray and 6 1/4” from the side of the shelf. The front was also 6 1/4” in but 4 5/8” from the back. This keeps all the trays flush to the back of the shelf unit.
With the measurements located on the trays it was time to drill the holes. I originally started with a new style of super aggressive spade bit (paddle bit). It has a screw tip instead of just a bit and wavy outside blades. This was way too aggressive for getting through thin plastic and tore up my first couple of holes. Running the blade in reverse though provided very smooth results.
Then I threaded the male portion of the adapter into the tray directly. This gets the small holes as close to the bottom of the tray as possible. Next came the o-ring. Then I spun the female adapter on somewhat tight. Just don’t squish out your o-ring.
In order for the shelves with the adapter protruding out of the bottom to sit nicely on the shelves I needed to remove a slot on each shelf. This allowed the drain to sit beneath the surface of the shelf. Also, as the tray was sloping towards this hole in the shelf it means the trays will lock into position and not easily fall of the shelf.
Once the trays were sitting on the shelves I needed to turn to the plumbing. I dropped the pond pump into the sump tank. Then cut a section of 1/2” pond hose that went from the pond pump to about half way up the shelf unit. That is where I wanted to add the redirect valves so that we could use the pump to feed water to the shelves, or to empty out the sump tank. With two ball style valves, it is pretty easy to do this.
With both shark bite valves point up you know that the water is going to the shelves above. If they are pointing to the right then the water is going to be pushed out of the system entirely so that you can easily change the sump water.
Tomorrow I will do a wet test to see how it cycles without seeds. Then I will deliver it to my buddies ranch and get the timer all configured. Then we can do the first planting. We will have some fodder pictures in the next fodder update.