“Cattle feed agriculture consumes a large amount of water, which makes it challenging to grow in the Middle East considering the water scarcity. The domestic meat and dairy industry are constrained to import over 90% of its feed requirements.
With our solution, those farmers can now get access to fresh feed supply produced locally with 95% less water required. Growing fodder on-site not only shortens the supply chain drastically which makes it very attractive financially but also offers the possibility to provide a highly nutritious product, improving considerably the animal’s wellbeing” says Alexandre Allegue, founder and CEO of GrazeIT, an Agtech company based in Dubai, UAE.
Alexandre has spent his last 15 years developing renewable energy ventures in the Middle East and Africa, often unlocking new markets with innovative business models. He is confident that agriculture, thanks to the development of multiple new technologies, will follow a similar path.
Affter noticing how unsustainable conventional agriculture was in the Gulf region, and broader than that, the devastating impact of deforestation in the world on animal agriculture, Alexandre decided to turn things upside down and focus on sustainable fodder production with a very low land footprint. Therefore, GrazeIT created a solution to remedy deforestation and allow farmers to cultivate barley, as well as other crops, for their meat- and dairy farming.
A look inside a facility (Courtesy of Hydrogreen)
Graze-it ’s service model relieves farmers from funding the facilities upfront and taking care of their animal feed. The company is designing, financing, building and operating for the client. Partnering with tier one Controlled Environment Agriculture suppliers, Graze It is adapting solutions to the local arid environment. From a software perspective, an in-house developed platform helps the organization collect data on operations and farm parameters to improve production.
“Every customer will have a different need and nutrition requirement, and this feed produces eventually better output than seen before. As the industry mostly focuses on price, we can give them a stable price year-round, along with the right volume and nutrition requirements for their cattle,” Alex notes.
Irrigation (Courtesy of Hydrogreen)
The livestock is fragmented into different segments, such as the cows’ age, the species, the pregnancy cycle, the purpose of breeding, etc.
Conventional fodder, or its ingredients such as alfalfa, barley, corn, etc, are exposed to very high market volatility. On top of that, transportation & logistic, which can account for 50% of the landing cost, has proven to be very volatile during the covid pandemic. As a consequence, we have seen Milk prices surging by 38% in the UAE in a few days.
By broadly controlling the seed supply, Graze-it is reducing the fodder price fluctuation by 80 to 90%. “Feed prices recently more than doubled, which is a big hit for producers. A meat or dairy company wants to secure three things: food volume, quality and price. And that is very hard to secure in the current dynamic. Regardless, we can now offer a solution that covers all three needs by building the facility next to the customer.”
A rendering of a facility (Courtesy of Hydrogreen)
Aiming to grow as a developer, Graze-it opts to expand throughout the region to compete with imported produce. Remarkably, notes Alex, that’s not the case on any other platform. Especially. Since the grass grows within a week, there’s very little risk of downtime. The faced pain points of imported goods all come back to the cost of imports, logistics and storage all add to the total price.
“We’re not here to replace imports, but at least we want to substitute a portion of it. We can substitute 20 to 60% of the animal feed while offering a better outcome for the farmer since our solution is more digestible and nutritious.”, Alex explains.
(Courtesy of Hydrogreen)
Regular feed only contains 20% proteins
It’s not that easy to introduce this newest farming technique to producers, Alex claims, as the nutritionists don’t just want to change something that works. “Playing with animal diets can be very sensitive. If you change one element, it’s translated into a monetary impact on a business. Therefore, it’s tricky to explain its entire benefit.”
Graze-it is backed by nutritionists that worked with domestic feed suppliers, as well as others that have been executing extensive research to prove the concept and benefits of hydroponic fodder.
“Looking at the average nutrition value of hydroponic fodder for ruminants, one can think that because it only has 20% of dry matter, the remaining can be discarded as water."
(Courtesy of Hydrogreen)
"This approach is unfortunately wrong as the remaining 80% of the moisture is very nutritious, similar to your fresh orange juice when you squeeze an orange and is often considered a superfood. We have to deal with similar misconception in this industry, but the deployed hydroponic fodder in the US has proven to be very successful from a nutrition perspective.”
Alex gives away that they’re working on two pilots that are about to be implemented which will help the company to gather more data and later test it to better the system. Soon, the company will also close its funding round, which will push Graze-it to supply commercial-size production facilities.