This farmer uses hydroponics to grow forage in just seven days, but it’s expensive to get started

Animal feed (included)

  • Farmer Mathoke Phaladi grows animal feed hydroponically, with no soil or land, and can be harvested all year round.
  • The animal feed takes seven days to grow and costs around R65 for 10 kilograms.
  • With the help of various organizations, Phaladi managed to raise funds to procure the equipment necessary to advance his Thari’s Fodder business.
  • Today the company is able to produce around 1,000 kilograms of animal feed every day.
  • More stories can be found at

Mathoke Phaladi is a young farmer who hydroponically grows high-nutrient animal feed in just seven days, and the feed grows year round.

The young farmer and founder of Thari’s Fodder was born and raised in Limpopo, where he tended cattle from an early age and later became interested in agriculture.

Hydroponically grown animal feed (included)

“When I was growing up we were farming, both livestock and grain, but not for commercial purposes. It was for our own consumption,” he said.

As he got older, Phaladi knew he wanted to farm commercially, but didn’t know what type of agriculture he wanted to specialize in. Even financial hurdles in founding the company did not make it easy for him.

While looking for an opportunity to get into commercial framing, the entrepreneur came across Wouldn’t it be Cool (WIBC), an incubator that mentors, supports and funds emerging small businesses in a variety of sectors, including hydroponics.

Phaladi tried his luck and after making it into WIBC he started researching what kind of culture he wanted to grow on a large scale.

“In our country, the biggest crisis I think ranchers face is the lack of rain. We have seen droughts in recent years. There was one case where over 1,000 animals died of drought from lack of food or good quality forage, ”he said.

It is this tragedy that motivated Phaladi to venture into forage planting “to help farmers struggling to get nutrient-rich forage from green forage like green grass,” he added.

Phaladi learned how to hydroponically grow the nutrient-rich forage to ensure he could produce it all year round, in all seasons.

Hydroponically grown grass (included)

Hydroponically grown grass (included)

The type of forage at Phaladi Farms is stye, which is said to provide the best nutrient yield in green grasses. This is because it contains an abundance of nutrients unmatched by any other type of grass, and it only takes seven days to grow.

“It only takes me seven days to wax, only seven days. So we can produce a huge amount of weed in a short period of time. We can produce 1,000 kilograms a day, ”says Phaladi proudly.

The cost of getting started

Before starting, it takes extensive research to ensure that the right equipment is obtained.

Phaladi said the process took about 16 months before Thari’s Fodder went fully operational in September and estimates that he spent around 400,000 ren to get the project started.

“We worked, but not with real machines. Before I got any real machines, I had built my own prototype to see if the idea would work.

“During this time I was able to produce small amounts of feed, I couldn’t deliver as much with the machine as I can now,” he said.

Today the company sells 10 kilograms of hydroponic feed for R65 and only supplies customers in Gauteng.

Depending on the species you are feeding, a minimum of four kilograms per day is recommended for cows, 1.3 kilograms for sheep and around 0.23 kilograms for chickens. According to the farmer, other animals require around three percent of their body weight per day.

Grazing cows (included)

Grazing cows (included)

Chicken feeding (included)

Chicken feeding (included)

In just 90 days, he promises, customers are guaranteed to see results as the animals gain weight.

While hydroponic farming could never replace conventional farming, it tends to be a little more profitable in certain respects.

Grazing goats (included)

Grazing goats (included)

Grazing horses (included)

Grazing horses (included)

“Your animals are guaranteed to have grass all year round, regardless of the season. Animals usually gain weight and look healthy in summer, but the other way around in winter. Not with hydroponics,” Phaladi said.

Another benefit of hydroponic farming is the length of time it takes to plant it, and the products don’t take up much land.

The plants can also be manipulated to grow without sunlight at night with the help of LED light. As a result, the grass grows around 30 to 50% faster than on the ground.

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