“To farm, to diversify – to diversify, perchance to AutoPot”. Yes Hamlet, you guessed it, AutoPot recently exhibited at the Farm Business Innovation show (FBI), the home of land use diversification. And though Birmingham NEC isn’t quite the RSC, it was thought-provoking theatre all the same. From modern crops to knitted tops, from moto high-jinx to dinosaur animatronics, from plant shoots to gun shoots, from septic tanks to jacuzzis, our fellow 550 FBI exhibitors wowed visitors in their droves. Honour-bound to give our very best we sent a posse of professional AutoPot players to excite and delight what was sure to be a rapturous crowd.
How farmers use their land should be of interest to all given that usage is both affected by and affects pretty much everything we eat and drink. Could a wider range of produce be grown domestically using alternative methods – reducing costs, food dependency and the environmental impact of shipping? Could costs and prices be reduced overall by using more efficient, controlled growing techniques? What news from the land? How could AutoPot selflessly assist? We had to know.
Attendance and interest at FBI made it clear that diverse approaches to farming have probably never been more in demand. Landowners and farmers continue to face an uncertain future regarding the viability of their current land usage. Climatic and political changes mean the profitability of growing crops or raising livestock by traditional means is questionable. For those at the NEC wishing to find a high-yield, low-overhead means of cultivating just about any plant life under the sun – or indeed, under a roof – enter AutoPot!
In order to give the people a complete vision of the future of horticulture it only seemed right that we should include all aspects on our stand, not just the watering systems. This meant showing people the options in terms of shelter, light and food; AKA greenhouses, LEDs and nutrients. Hence, we willed Keder, Kroptek and Growth Technology to join us. And join us they did.
What price success? Venturing into the unknown with a new horticultural project means cost is, understandably, a matter of some concern. However questions of quality should have equal footing. One key area for this is the protection you afford your plants. If your new, inexpensive poly tunnel is ravaged by weather on a regular basis then repair work and loss of crops will quickly sap the soul. Hence we’d always advocate something lasting. We were therefore honoured to welcome Keder Greenhouses to our stand at FBI. Bringing high-spec greenhouse grandeur, Keder employ the unique “Bubble Keder Polydress”, a 9 layer laminate plastic system, which is safer, lower maintenance and more cost effective than traditional glass. As our own growers, including Benjamin Biggs of Plantasia, will testify it’s also far stronger and more durable than standard poly tunnels.
Those looking to diversify might have the wherewithal to create a dedicated indoor growing facility. On the other hand they might only have a few shipping containers at their disposal. Fortunately there are producers of lighting solutions out there who ensure their units can can tough it out, even in the most inhospitable environs. But that doesn’t quite cap it when choosing a light. For the ultimate in cost-effectiveness the light of choice should include levels of adjustability that allow growers to cultivate a wide variety of crop types, from a number of angles and at all stages. One such UK producer of LED lighting is Kroptek who we had the pleasure of exhibiting in demo set-ups with our systems at FBI. Understandably these garnered immense interest.
Unless your plants are feeding, your consumers won’t be buying. Growth Technology brought a range of proven, high-performance nutrients and nutrient management products to show at FBI. For those shifting away from in-earth cultivation the effectiveness, ease of use and suitability of nutrients are key. If intrepid innovators are after a range that gives a great return, is a doddle to use and includes options for all systems and substrates then Growth Technology feeds certainly tick the boxes. The advantage of using AutoPot is that the systems grow with pretty much everything. Whether mineral or organic there are feed choices aplenty and substrate options are myriad.
Many of the FBI visitors were looking to escape from increasingly unprofitable practices that have been compromised by the ever-creeping cost of overheads. Thus we were flat-chat throughout the expo addressing questions of our systems’ qualities and suitability. Clearly the power-free, zero-waste water/nutrient advantages made a deep impression. For newbies and former in-earth converts alike, the plant controlled irrigation (PCI) as found in an AutoPot seemed to be a real revelation. Far from just allowing growers to be lazy, PCI affords them time to focus on developing yield-optimising technique and diversifying. One of the reasons we love PCI so much is that it provides a really solid base from which you can go further with horticulture in a much shorter time.
There was, naturally, a degree of interest in our exploits in the US, Canada and other countries that have seen legalisation of cannabis for medical and/or recreational purposes. Whilst we are unable to advise people on this in the U.K. it was fascinating to hear the range of opinions voiced by visitors whose backgrounds couldn’t be more varied. A central, theoretical question is that of “if it ever comes will it have any value?”, especially relevant given the rapidly solidifying global hegemony of certain producers.
So much diversity, so little time. In what seemed a moment FBI 2019 had diversified from being open to being closed. We were well and truly talked out but resolute in our wish to return. Perhaps that’s not the diverse thing to do, but it sometimes in order to make a little diversity you’ve got to break a little diversity? That’ll do, see you next year guys!