One Northern California company is changing the future of farming. And their vision doesn't involve soil, sun or tractors.
Curt Chittock, an entrepreneur from Nevada County, is selling hydroponic growing rooms: a high-output, low-cost farming system. Chittock's business, Simply Country Inc., is one of two North America companies licensed to manufacture and sell the patented system.
Hydroponic farming sprouts grains and legume seeds in trays, requiring only a shipping container, plastic trays, grow lights and a climate system. Sunlight and field hands are not needed. The method, known as the Fodder Solutions Systems, can increase product growth while cutting farming costs by as much as $40,000 per month.
"I would compare it to a model vehicle," Chittock told The Huffington Post. "If you have a car that's going to get ten miles per gallon and now you have one that gets 70 miles per gallon for less, that's an advantage to everyone."
In just six days, the Fodder Solutions System can produce a crop of grains large enough to feed 300 cattle, 800 horses or 400,000 chickens for one day. The results are fast and the process is chemical-free.
Chittock's family has worked in the feed business for 48 years. He learned about the hydroponic method in 2009 when a salesman drove into his store. Chittock was skeptical, but he purchased a small system and fed some seeds to his own animals.
"Within 30 days, we saw a big difference," he said.
Chittock became a licensed dealer in 2010, and can now supply the Fodder Solutions System in 45 states.
Though some farmers have raved about the system's cost-cutting benefits, nutritionists are less enthusiastic. The sprouts do not provide as much protein and energy as grains, for example. But Chittock claims the produce provides cattle with all their essential nutrients.
Beginning in two weeks, Chico State University will feed 85 cows a steady diet of grain sprouts grown using the Fodder Solutions System. The assessment could confirm or deny skepticisms of hydroponic farming.
"It is the future," Chittock told the HuffPost. "It will cost less money and producers will be viable. [Hydroponic farming] needs to happen."
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