Montana Entrepreneur Works to Find Market for Patent-Pending Hydroponic Animal Feed Growing Chamber
November 25, 2013 | Jenny Smiechowski
We’ve all heard the saying, “You are what you eat.”
But David Oberst, founder and president of All Season Greens, gives the familiar saying a different twist.
“You are what you eat eats,” says Oberst, recognizing that what we feed our livestock greatly impacts their nutritional value and, consequently, our health.
“It was my wife’s and my objective to create something that helps change the way nutrition gets into the animal that gets into the human,” says Oberst.
Oberst’s Kalispell, Montana-based company has developed the LivingGreens system, a hydroponic growing chamber that produces high quality animal feed in a cost-effective, efficient manner. The system is a self-contained, computer-controlled environmental chamber that Oberst refers to as a ”plug and run system” because all you have to do is plug it in and it does all the work.
The LivingGreens system consists of a specialized growing tray covered with the grower’s choice of grain seed. The hydroponic chamber is then programmed to water the seed at pre-determined intervals and maintain optimal temperature and lighting requirements for growth. According to Oberst, there are many benefits to the LivingGreens system. It allows farmers to grow feed year-round, requires less space and resources than conventional feed growing operations, and produces a superior product.
Oberst asserts that the greens produced through the LivingGreens system are actually more nutritious than pasture grass, because the animal is able to consume more of the plant. “When an animal is eating LivingGreens they’re not just eating the barley grass or wheat grass, but they’re also eating the seed which is sprouted and full of nutrition and the root mass,” Oberst says.
Oberst has filed for a patent for the programming logic that controls hydroponic chamber. This technology, which makes the chamber a self-sufficient system, is an important component of the LivingGreens system. As the patent is still pending, Oberst has witnessed an upsurge in competitors utilizing his technology.
“Quite a few individuals, because there is a patent application issued, jumped into the marketplace and unfortunately created an inferior product and speak mistruths to potential customers,” says Oberst.
Other challenges include dealing with farmers who are unwilling to try something new and competing with corn subsidies. Oberst says that these challenges have put a tremendous strain on his business.
“I am currently in a restructure phase that may include shutting down operations until my patent is issued,” he says.
Oberst does, however, see a future for LivingGreens, particularly if he obtains the patent. With a patent, he would have greater control of the marketplace and could prevent future misuses and misrepresentations of the product, he says.
On a global level, Oberst sees a bright future for the technology he has developed. Eventually, he hopes to see the LivingGreens system not only feeding animals but humans as well. He believes this technology can feed people in impoverished areas across the world by helping them grow food for their livestock and themselves in a cost-effective way.
“You can produce animal feed in the LivingGreens system but at the same time, right as you’re producing animal feed, you can produce human consumption greens as well,” said Oberst. “This really allows for a sustainability level that just isn’t out there right now.”
Moving forward, Oberst says he will change his business plan slightly. Rather than market his product to the typical U.S. farmer, Oberst believes he will have more success targeting those in the up-and-coming sustainable and urban farming movement.
“I will change my approach and go after that person that wants to get into farming for the first time, that new person pursuing sustainability,” Oberst said.