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SALT LAKE CITY — Using vertical and indoor farming, Utah-based Grōv Technologies has created a fully automated indoor system that grows fresh animal feed in an effort to help dairy farmers and beef producers become economically and environmentally sustainable.
The system, dubbed the Olympus Tower Farm, has been in operation for the last few years at Utah's largest dairy farm, Bateman's Mosida Farms, as part of a pilot test. According to Grōv Technologies President Steve Lindsley, Grōv has the largest indoor controlled growing technology in the world.
Third-generation dairy and beef farmer Brad Bateman, of the family farm in Juab County, said the system has made a big difference for them, and their cows love to eat it.
"We see a product that is highly sustainable, highly repeatable and the cows really like it," Bateman said. "It's highly digestible and very nutritious. It's benefited us and all of those areas that would go along with keeping animals, well-fed and happy."
Lindsley said a big goal of the project was finding ways to do more, with less — something they said was accomplished during the pilot test at Bateman's Farms. The cattle eating the feed from the system ate less but produced more milk.
Since the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, supply chains across the world have been disrupted by various shutdowns and other roadblocks to getting products out, which added to the company looking to find a solution to the problem.
"We've always known that strengthening our supply chain was important, but COVID has placed an exclamation point on how important food security is around the world," Lindsley said. "And our belief is that is a greater feed security for animals, especially local sources of feed will help to secure food security for humans. So it's a very important topic and there's a real opportunity to distribute the technology worldwide to improve the food security in many nations."
The farm tower grows the animal high-density nutrient feed on site, which cuts down transportation, emissions and costs involved in getting feed to the farm.
"This product is right here on the dairy, and we don't have to rely on the freight coming from far distances to bring some of these ingredients in, and I think that's one of the biggest benefits to dairies and other people is keeping up local and sourced straight here on the farm," Bateman said.
"The benefits to dairy operations or beef operations is fairly significant," he added. "I think this is the beginning, and things will just continue to increase."
Olympus operates in 857 square feet, rather than taking up the 35-70 acres usually needed for farming — all indoors and using less than 5% of the water used in traditional farming.
Saving that land is a crucial part to sustainability going forward, especially as the population continues to grow while available and farmable land continues to shrink.
"You have the challenge to be able to feed those folks on less available land and less water," Lindsley said. "So that's where the technology comes in."
"If we want cleaner, fresher, more nutritious products, it all starts with what we feed our animals and how we take care of our animals," Lindsley said.